Set up new iPad and restore from backup?
I've set up a few new iPads recently for friends, and doing so requires the iPad iOS software is the current, which means going through a bunch of setup screens to install the current iOS. Is there a simpler way to turn on a new iPad and just restore it from a backup regardless of the version of the iOS on the new iPad?
When you activate a new device you immediately have the option of restoring from an iCloud backup or you can connect to iTunes and activate it there, restoring from an iTunes backup. However you cannot restore a backup made with a newer version of iOS than what the device is running. So, for example, you cannot restore a backup made under iOS 9.2 to a device running iOS 9.1. In that case you would have to update the device to iOS 9.2 (or newer) to restore that backup.
You can restore a backup made with an older iOS to a device running a newer iOS - eg a backup made under iOS 8 will readily restore to a device running iOS 9.
That is exactly my experience. My question then is: Can the new iPad's iOS be upgraded simpler than having to go through all of the setup screens and prompts?
Nope, sorry. You have to activate the device as new in order to be able to update it in the first place, so you can then restore your backup.
Unfortunately, that is my experience. Too bad it's not just as simple as connect the new iPad to a WiFi and update the latest iOS, or have the "restore" prompt to do the update as part of the restore process.