Is the iPad Still Popular?

Man using iPad in Apple Store
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images News

A common theme in the media these days is the declining sales of the iPad, but what tends to be missed are the declining sales of Android tablets and the tablet market as a whole. Is it fair to say the iPad is no longer the popular computing device and PC alternative that it was just a few short years ago? Is the tablet market as a whole on the decline?

Or is the iPad actually one of the most popular computing devices in the world?

Let's look at a few facts:

  • The 8.9 million iPads sold in the first quarter of 2017 accounted for almost one in four tablets sold and outsold the next two manufacturers combined. Samsung sold 6 million tablets and Huawei sold 2.7 million.
  • Compared to the PC market, the iPad's 8.9 million in sales would rank it fourth, just behind Dell's 9.35 million. Lenova with 12.3 million and HP with 12.1 million lead PC sales.
  • Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop PCs accounted for 4.2 million, or put another way, less than half of all iPad sales.

It's fair to say that the iPad is one of the most popular computing devices in the world, and obviously, the most popular tablet. So what's happening with sales to cause all of the uproar?

The tablet market as a whole sold 8.5% less units in the first quarter of this year as opposed to last year. Apple's iPad dropped 13.5% in sales compared to last year. One thing to note when comparing these numbers is that Apple reports actual sales of the iPad while Android's sales are estimates based on shipping.

But any way you slice it, the numbers show Apple taking a beating, don't they?

In the first quarter of 2016, it had been two months since Apple released its latest iPad, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. In the first quarter of this year, it had been nine months since the release of the 9.7-inch Pro. This disparity in the release cycle combined with the overall trend of the tablet market can explain why Apple dropped slightly faster than the market as a whole.

 

The Tablet Market Is Still Waiting for an Upgrade Cycle

The PC has it. The smartphone has it with 2-year contracts and pay-as-you-go plans. The iPad is still waiting for it. The tablet market is saturated. Almost everyone who wants an iPad already has an iPad, so the only way to get them to buy is to offer them something better... right?

Not quite true. The iPad 2 and the original iPad mini still account for almost 40% of the iPad audience. Here are a few things they have in common: they both run on the now-ancient Apple A5 processor, neither of them sports a Retina Display, they don't have Touch ID or Apple Pay, and they won't work with the Apple Pencil or the new Smart Keyboard.

But people still love them. Why? Because they still work great.

This will change in the near future. The iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad mini are technically obsolete because the newest version of the operating system no longer supports these older tablets. However, most owners probably don't even realize this because they still work with most apps released on the App Store. This will change starting at the end of this year. Apple is dropping 32-bit support, which means they are dropping support for apps built for these older iPad models.

There's no clearer sign that it is time to upgrade than not being able to download new apps. This means the official upgrade cycle is likely to begin next year.

The iPad 2 Becoming Obsolete Will Be the Best Thing Since the iPad 2

The iPad 2 as the bomb. That's why it was so popular. Retina screens and split-screen multitasking are great, but the iPad 2 doubled the power of the iPad, doubled the memory and added dual-facing cameras to the mix. It is the iPad we've all come to love, which is one reason why the iPad Mini was modeled after it and why both of them were so popular.

But the move to the 64-bit architecture will be the bomb.

 

The iPad Air is over four times faster than the iPad 2, it has twice the random access memory (RAM) available for applications and has over eight times the performance boost when it comes to graphics. Right now, apps are written for the iPad 2 and the iPad mini because they are the most popular models, and developers are going to code for the most popular devices. But the switch to 64-bit will mean apps developed for the iPad Air, not the iPad 2, which will give developers a lot more resources to use.

This means we'll get better apps, faster and prettier games, and overall, a much improved experience from our iPad. And for Apple, it means millions and millions of people who will want to finally upgrade to the latest-and-greatest model.

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