Apple Stems Decline in iPad Sales Thanks to New iPad Pros

2 minute read
| Editorial

For several years now, Apple’s iPad sales have been in general decline, but the introduction of new iPad Pros seems to have put a stop to that. Can Apple keep it up?

Awhile back, I wrote that a rough, eyeballing of the iPad sales curve would lead to zero sales at some point in the future, perhaps 2021. Unless Apple could figure out how to reignite sales soon.

That appears to have happened as of Q3 2017, See the unit sales chart below.

iPad unit sales (millions) since launch.

iPad unit sales (millions) since launch in 2010.

Of course, no one can reliably predict the future, but I think there are several reasons why we may have hit bottom.

First, Apple has breathed some serious new power and display capability into the new iPad Pros announced at WWDC. These new iPads are brighter (600 nits) have a wider color gamut (DCI-P3), True Tone displays (12.9-inch gets it), and ProMotion (120 Hz refresh).

The A10X Fusion is several times faster than the A8 in the iPad Air 2 and looks to be able to support the significant improvements in iOS 11 geared to productivity. And even though iOS 11 is compatible with iPads as old as iPad Air, my surmise is that customers finally felt that their iPad Airs (and older), nearly four years old now, really did need an upgrade. Finally.

I should also note that Apple didn’t have anywhere near the full quarter to sell these new iPads. That bodes well for Q4 as well.

iPad Pro 2017 Product Line

Both 2017 iPad Pros are stunning, (Image credit: Apple)

Finally, my readings and the decisions by our TMO staff suggest that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro introduced at WWDC is a hit. I have one myself, (replaced the iPad Air) and it’s amazing. It will be more so with iOS 11.

Back on Growth Path

What will Apple have to do to make sure it doesn’t fall into another three year slump as customers find that their 2017 model is just fine. I think Apple will have to continue its dramatic infusion of hardware technology and iOS developments. The announcements at WWDC suggest that there’s a new energy and new enthusiasm in the product teams.

That’s resulted in a renewed discussion about the power of the iPad. (Faster than many PCs, according to Tim Cook.) Our David Chartier provided a glimpse of the iPad’s future prospects and potential. “With iOS 11, Apple’s iPad Really Could Be Your Next Computer.

Let’s admit it. The iPad languished for too long, and IOS couldn’t leap forward until the iPad hardware did. To the extent that customers feel that the iPad is more and more capable when it comes to taking on the role as their primary computational device, iPad sales will remain resurgent.

Plus the hardware demands of 4K/UHD and Augmented Reality may mean that all those older iPads will no longer be considered “good enough” by most customers.

But if Apple stops pouring on the coals, in both hardware and iOS, in light of the re-ignition of the Mac at WWDC, the iPad slump could return. Somehow, I don’t think it will.

4 Comments Add a comment

  1. I know im going to be in the market for one, a 10.5 inch model, this fall to replace my iPad Air. The Air is fine. Until now I couldnt justify upgrading. The new Pros though are worth it.

  2. Two weeks ago I bought a 12.9 iPad Pro and am quite pleased with it. While that helped iPad sales it hurt MacBook Pro as that was what I planning on getting. I am thinking that maybe I will get the MacBook Pro for Christmas, and an Apple Watch 3 for my birthday which is also in December.

  3. Old UNIX Guy

    I agree with others in the online Apple news world who believe that the growth in iPad sales is not so much because of the iPad Pro’s (great as they evidently are), but by the $329 base model iPad.

    Last weekend was tax free weekend in the state where I live. I had $225 of Apple Store gift cards in my pocket. And I qualify for the education discount … so I walked out of the Apple Store with a space grey 32 GB iPad for $84.

    Why? Because the iPad Pro is twice as much and that’s before you start adding in things like the pencil. I’m not artist and – after a lengthy career in the computer field – can barely write / print. No thanks, iPad Pro.

    For others, however, the iPad Pro may be the right choice … I just think that the combination of much higher unit sales but only a 2% increase in profits points to them selling way more iPads than iPad Pros…

    Old UNIX Guy

  4. A talking head on the local news just issued a teaser for an upcoming segment “The iPad is making a comeback.” Well son, said with a due condescention, it never left.

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