I bought my iPad 2 back when it was first released. I bought it on release date back in March 2011. I remember driving a 150 mile round trip from my new home in Cornwall to Exeter to visit the apple store and pick one up. On arrival, the only iPad 2 left in stock was the most expensive 64GB version with GSM cellular built-in. I really wanted a 3G version so I could use it anywhere so I jumped at the chance and paid the hefty £659 price tag. I loved the iPad 2 when it came out. I loved reading books on it, working & writing on the go. Browsing the net on a big screen anywhere & watching media on it. I really did fall in love with this device. Over the years as it has become older & with each iOS update the iPad 2 has gone from being a speedy device for all of my mobile computing to a sluggish and painful device to use. In my opinion, Apple should have stopped supporting the iPad 2 at iOS 7. They need to make better efforts for apps to support older version of iOS. But they won’t. This is perfectly useable tech & it seems so wasteful that software can make useful hardware obsolete.
In a perfect world, devices that apple deem end of life should have the option of easily selecting any older version of iOS depending on a users needs. On iOS 9 my iPad 2 went really unloved. I wouldn’t turn it on for weeks on end as it was too slow for even basic web browsing. If apple had any sense they would allow downgrading on older devices as standard. I guess it’s a good way of making us keep upgrading. But I couldn’t live with the fact that this machine which was ludicrously fast only a few years ago was no obsolete.
Up until iOS 8 I was a fanatical jailbreaker. I had the ATV 2 jailbroken & running XBMC, I had my iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS jailbroken along with my iPad 2. I liked being able to run homebrew tweaks & software, especially XBMC/Kodi. I’m glad I used to jailbreak as it got me thinking about downgrading. I have all of my old SHSH blobs backed up so I looked at older versions of iOS. Due to the changes made in the way apple sign ipsw’s post iOS 5.1.1 it looked increasingly difficult to downgrade to iOS 6,7 or 8. I therefore decided to go for 5.1.1 which looked like the most straight forward thing to do.
Luckily redsn0w supports downgrading of the iPad 2 easily so long as you have SHSH blobs for iOS 5.1.1 and any version of iOS 4. I downloaded the correct iOS 5.1.1 ipsw and also a 4.3.5 ipsw and let redsn0w retrieve my SHSH blobs from cydia and start the restore. The restore itself was painless, let redsn0w do it’s thing, throw the iPad 2 into DFU mode and let it restore first to iOS 4.3.5 and then to 5.1.1.
A word of warning, a few apps will not run at all on iOS 5.1.1, most notably Instagram and BBC iPlayer. For other apps an older version will install but I’ve found all the apps I need, to work in one version or another, including Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Plex etc.
The next step for me was to head back to redsn0w and jailbreak. The jailbreak for iOS 5.1.1 is so simple. It’s known as Rocky Racoon and takes a matter of minutes. Once installed & cydia was setup, I added the Kodi iOS repository to my list of sources and installed Kodi.
This iPad 2 now has a new lease of life. It’s so fast. I will admit it takes a little getting used to after using iOS 9, but it’s so fast it’s worth it to resurrect your old tech. Kodi works a dream on this thing, with incredible battery life it’s the best portable media centre by far. The fact mine has 64GB of storage means I can keep loads of media locally on the iPad and playback using Kodi. The facebook app is an older version but so much better. The content is concise and not cluttered like modern facebook.
Safari is super fast & I’ve installed Adblock via Cydia to block ads iPad wide, not just in Safari. This means no annoying ads in videos. All in all I’m really impressed. I also love the fact that I can now airplay any video to my Kodi media centre running on the Raspberry Pi. The latest iterations of iOS changed airplay encryption & broke airplay to Kodi for everything but Audio. However on 5.1.1 I can airplay any video, meaning I can use safari based TV catchup services such as Quest TV and airplay the video to my Kodi media centre. I can also airplay the video from the YouTube app which is a huge bonus.
All in all I’d say this is the best decision I’ve made for the iPad 2. Whilst I do lose some functionality, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. The difference in speed is incredible and it’s now a device I use daily again. If you have one I would recommend running a backup and trying this, you can always restore back to the latest version if you aren’t happy. I for one will be sticking with iOS 5.1.1 on legacy devices.
I’ve also got my eye on an iPad Air. The price are pretty good for a huge leap in technology. Speeds are now much better and even weight has been drastically reduced.