Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Slow Decline of iPad Sales

John Gruber:

But put software development aside. I think the bigger problem for the iPad is that there are few productivity tasks, period, where iPad is hardware-constrained. Aldus PageMaker shipped for the Mac in 1985. By 1987 or 1988, it was easy to argue that the Mac was, hands-down, the best platform the world had ever seen for graphic designers and visual artists. By 1991 — seven years after the original Mac — I think it was inarguable. And the improvements in Mac software during those years drove demand for improved hardware. Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand (R.I.P.), QuarkXpress — those apps pushed the limits of Mac hardware in those days.

Michael Rockwell:

iPad owners don’t buy new iPads because the one they have is just as fast as the day they bought it. By comparison, the Windows PCs that many of these users buy are at their fastest when they’re first setup. I reference Windows users because they represent the vast majority of mainstream computer users and I believe them to be the primary reason for the massive success of the iPad in its early days.


In the tech-centric circles that many of us frequent, new hardware and software features matter, a lot. But I don’t think the mainstream user is convinced to spend hundreds of dollars on a new device just because it connects to a new kind of wireless keyboard or works with a $100 drawing accessory that you have to buy separately.


The iPad upgrade cycle might be longer than any other computing device in history. This might look terrible for Apple’s financial department, but it’s a testament to how well-crafted these devices are from both a software and hardware standpoint. The lengthy upgrade cycle lends itself to high customer satisfaction ratings and repeat customers. That’s something Apple should be proud of — a computing device that doesn’t have to be replaced every few years.

Nick Heer:

Apple has long said that the iPad’s big display provides the opportunity to create a completely different app experience. At the first Retina iPad event, Tim Cook even spent stage time mocking Android tablet apps that looked like large phone apps.

But now, five years after that event, it’s not so much the apps that are scaled-up versions of a smartphone, but rather that the operating system seems largely driven by what the iPhone can do. This was an early criticism of the iPad, but I felt it was unwarranted at the time — a larger version of a familiar interface is a great way to introduce a new product category.

Chris Adamson:

Here’s a counter-argument that is being overlooked: the iPad represents effectively all of the “productivity tablet” market[…].


Now even if the Mac sells less than the iPad, the PC market as a whole is massive… much larger than tablets, and larger still than my contrived “productivity tablet” market. And Mac’s not even 10% of this giant PC market.

So, in terms of growth opportunities, which is more realistic: finding non-tablet-users to adopt the iPad for their productivity or work needs (and making the iPad more suitable for that), or flipping more of the 90% of people already using PCs to a better version of the same thing?

Previously: Apple’s Q1 2017 Results.

Update (2017-02-12): Jeff Johnson:

iPad upgrade cycle shouldn’t be the focus. Ask why new sales aren’t growing. How did iPad reach market saturation in only 4 years?

Ole Begemann:

Not sure I buy the argument that iPad sales are slow because old devices are “fast enough”. My 3-year-old iPad Air is often painfully slow.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

Maybe, just maybe, if they fixed all of the bugs in iOS people would upgrade more often (ok, maybe not)... my iPad Air 2 on the latest 10.x release STILL has a huge bug where it won't reliably rotate the screen when I turn the iPad. And sometimes the screen is in the right rotation, but then the keyboard will pop up in the wrong orientation. I finally had to turn on Assistive Touch so I can rotate the screen manually. And that's just the iPad.

iOS in general still has a huge bug, since iOS 8 (was fine in iOS 7) where if you ask Siri to make a reminder, and you correct her output (e.g. change "Remind me to call Kerry" to "Remind me to call Carrie" within the Siri interface) it will create TWO reminders. Obviously, if I'm correcting something in Siri's interpretation of my command, it means it's wrong and I don't want it! Why in hell they changed the code from iOS 7 to 8, then 9, and now 10 to not respect corrected Siri input is beyond belief. Especially now that Siri gives you options to select from if it can't hear you well ("Maybe you said..."). Even selecting one of those doesn't result in only the correct input being saved. I have emailed Federighi and Acero about this over a year ago (after filing a bug that went ignored), they both responded with a generic "We're always fixing bugs" type of reply, and it is still not fixed. If they are shipping iOS version after version after version with such a glaringly obvious bug, how the hell are we supposed to have any hope?

I'm in complete agreement with Ole. I had an iPad Mini (original). I let it update to iOS 9 and it slowed to a crawl. I had that hardware for 2.5 years at the time, and it because so uselessly slow I was ready to chuck it out the window any time I unlocked it. It did make a decent alarm clock for a while, though.

These devices have a similar useful lifespan as any old Windows box.

It's not just iPads though. Currently I'm writing this on an iPhone 6S running iOS 10. I'm fearful of what will happen to the performance perfectly good phone if I left it update to 11 this year.

I know it's been alleged, and refuted by an internal Apple employee (was it at a WWDC?), but I'm not a believer that there isn't _something_ happening in/to subsequent iOS realaesss that slows the hardware to a crawl.

So if iPads aren't just aging too-well for Apple's own good, then what's causing this sales decline?

I'd argue it's the reality that Apple never addressed the original criticisms from 2010, that said that the iPad was an enlarged iPhone. They have failed to make the iPad do anything more than what the phone can do, and thus, have limited this products utility.

The reality is that we need something in-between UIKit and AppKit for the iPad, and they haven't delivered that. It turned out that the iPad wasn't as magical or useful as everyone thought it had been in 2011/2012, and it turns out that not a lot of people have continued to upgrade their hardware. Are we all really that surprised by this?

The hard truth is that the sales decline is nothing more than the newness of this device (that encouraged people to purchase and try it out) wearing off. The sales decline is nothing more than people realizing that the iPad does some things, but not a lot of things, but only after having purchased their initial iPad.

I think that Apple could fix this situation, but I'm not sure sure if they think they need to do anything at all.

@Ole and @Wow I think it depends on the device and on what you do with it. My original iPad wasn’t that fast to begin with and became uselessly slow shortly thereafter. My iPad mini 2 seemed fast when I got it and seems pretty much the same speed now, even with multitasking added. Granted, I am not an iPad power user, but I can’t see a need to update it anytime soon for performance reasons. More likely, I would run out of storage or tire of not having Touch ID. The software is a definite issue, but for me personally I think even with the best software I can imagine the form factor would be constricting.

I still feel burned by our 3rd gen iPad purchase. We all know how well the A5X turned out to be, but at the time I trusted Apple to make a device that could hold up over the years. From iOS 7 onward, it was barely usable. So, roughly 1.5 years of usability and 4.5 years of official support. Perhaps that iPad was an exception, but it certainly gave me the impression that Apple wants iOS devices to have a shorter shelf life than Macs.

My parents used that iPad for light e-mail/browsing/Netflix duties up until the end of official support. For them, the iPad was a constant source of frustration due to the unresponsive touch and scrolling in iOS 7-9. They ended up replacing that iPad with a $180 Chromebook and haven't looked back. 15" IPS screen, 4GB RAM, responsive Broadwell CPU, and essentially zero administrative needs on my end after initial setup. They've looked at the current iPads a few times and really couldn't justify the much higher expense.

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