What’s going on? The answer to the iPad quandary is relatively simple. The iPad is just too good. Unlike the iPhone, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the iPad has a very long replacement cycle, perhaps longer than the Mac. That explains the oddest of anomalies. iPad usage.
What Goes Up, Isn’t Down
Wait. What? The iPad is too good? Since when did a new technology product get tagged with the “it’s too good” line? Shouldn’t the first few versions of any new gadget be thought of as beta products?
Think of Microsoft’s moribund Surface tablet notebook hybrid as an example. The company had to write off nearly $1-billion because both the first two versions were anemic and didn’t sell well.
Surface Pro 3 is a notable improvement over the original and seems to have gained some traction in sales (but certainly not at the expensive of the Mac).
No, the problem Apple faced with the iPad is that the original and subsequent models were simple too well built, too easily upgraded to the latest iOS version, and had hundreds of thousands of apps available within a few years.
Nearly 275-million iPads have been sold since it was introduced in 2010, making it Apple’s best selling new product ever (even topping the iPhone). First, Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out the obvious. First time iPad buyers are the largest percentage. That means current owners are not upgrading to new models because older models work just fine.
Second, Cook also point out that iPad usage among tablets is six times the second place competitor, and larger than all other tablets combined; with a whopping 71-percent of all web browsing done on tablets using iPads, and more than 80-percent of all tablet-based online purchases taking place on the iPad.
Put simply, customers love their iPads but for different reasons than why customers love the Mac or iPhone. Because iPads are easily handed down within a family, usage rates remain high, even as sales fall year over year. iPad sales may have fallen but only because initial sales of the device were so high to begin. The cycle for customer upgrades has yet to be set. Note that Apple is the only tablet maker to announce actual sales numbers for each device; computer, smartphone, tablet.
iPad sales year over year may have dropped, but total installed base of customers improved by about 70-million in 2014 alone, which explains why usage remains higher than all other Android-based tablets combined. People love their iPads but they’re not upgrading devices as fast as critics think they should, and not as frequently as Apple wants them to. What’s needed is another reason to buy and use a new iPad; a reason not currently available in older or current models.