Sales Prospects for Apple's iPad Air 2 Look Good

Almost a third of the installed base of iPads consists of iPad 2's without a Retina display. As a result, a casual look at the numbers suggests that the iPad Air 2 should do very well in sales. 


This week, I found a pie chart from Business Insider that shows the makeup of the iPad installed base.  It's shown below.

iPad installed base. Image credit: Business Insider

The text accompanying the chart concludes that Apple will have a hard sell with the iPad Air 2 given that "iPad owners tend to upgrade their tablet hardware more like laptop hardware (every 3-4 years) as opposed to phone hardware (every 1-2 years)." That's about right, but the conclusion doesn't seem to sync with the pie chart itself in a realistic assessment numeric possibilities.

When I look at the pie chart, I see considerable opportunity, especially with the iPad 2 crowd. That iPad shipped in March of 2011 and makes up the largest percentage of iPad owners, some 65 million of the 225 million total iPad users. (Assuming one per customer.)

Given that the iPad 2 doesn't have a Retina display, a not very good set of cameras, ancient Bluetooth, and, of course, no Touch ID, I would think that 65 million owners of this 3.5 year old iPad would be rather interested in upgrading. The quality of the iPad Air 2's rear facing camera and the newfound enthusiasm for iPad photography is an especially notable driver.

Another factor is that the original iPad, iPad 2,3 and 4 are rather thick feeling. Anyone who owns one of these and then handles an iPad Air 2 is going to be instantly motivated to upgrade. I know because my wife has an iPad 3, and even in a slim gel case, it feels like a brick compared to my sleek iPad Air.

So, another sizable group that may be enticed into an iPad Air 2 is the 3rd and 4th generation users who, collectively, make up another 64 million users. Their iPads are only two years old, but, statistically, a certain percentage of those will finally make the jump to the iPad Air 2.

iPad Air 2 Trio. Credit: Apple

Apple Sales

For the last 8 quarters, Apple has sold about 17 million iPads per quarter. If only a third of the iPad 2 owners and a quarter of the iPad 3,4 owners jump to an iPad Air 2, there's a potential market of 37 million units for the iPad Air 2 over the next year. At just under 10 million per quarter, that would constitute abut half of all iPad sales for the next year, and that's not a bad opportunity for Apple.

Plus, my estimate above may well be on the conservative side because it doesn't take into account the marketing impetus that Apple will bring to bear over the next year. The technology is there, but it's up to Apple's typically brilliant advertising to close the deal if Apple wants to make the iPad Air 2 a success thanks to not only upgraders but new customers as well.

All in all, I don't think the picture is as bad as some would paint it. It's not enough to make a list of new features for the iPad Air 2, compare them to the iPad Air, and conclude that sales will be poor. Instead, one has to look at all the features of the iPad Air 2 and compare them to what all customers are using now. In the end, that's what will drive sales.

Without looking at these aspects of the consumer mentality and Apple marketing, I think the success of the iPad Air 2 will remain a mystery to some.


Note: The Particle Debris directory of incidental news is fairly empty this week thanks to the giant Apple Media event, so there is no page 2. The full edition will resume next week.