To the surprise of few Apple watchers, the company delivered itsthird straight quarter of declining iPad sales.
The reason why sales are shrinking appears to be pretty obvious. There isn’t a good reason to own three Apple gadgets — a Mac, iPhone, and iPad — when a combination of just two of them will do. And now that iPhones come with larger screens, there’s even less of a reason to buy an iPad along with it.
This is not to say the iPad is a bad tablet. It’s a wonderful tablet, the best you can buy. And it’s likely the primary computer for a lot of people who don’t need to do much beyond checking Facebook and some light emailing. But keep in mind the modern tablet space is only four and a half years old. We’re still learning how people use them and how often they upgrade.
Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted as much on today’s earnings call.
“People hold onto iPads longer than they do a phone,” he said. “We’ve only been in this business four years. We don’t know what the upgrade cycle will be.”
If you have a third-generation iPad with Retina Display (which launched in early 2012) or later, there’s no reason to upgrade to one of the new iPads Apple introduced last week. Yes, the new models are faster, thinner, and have better cameras, but even iPads that are two and a half years old are more than capable and plenty thin and light.
iPads either need to learn how to do more in order to entice people to upgrade, or we should retool expectations for how often people should upgrade them. The iPhone may last about two years for the typical user, but the iPad might be a four- or five-year upgrade.
One interesting question Cook dodged regarding declining iPad sales: An analyst asked if Apple would consider making some sort hybrid iPad that can double as a regular computer. Cook ignored that part of the question. But as Bloomberg reported this summer, Apple is working on a giant iPad with a 12.9-inch screen that could launch early next year.