It may be hard to believe, but it has now been 7 years since then CEO Apple CEO Steve Jobs (RIP) unveiled the original iPad. At the time, Apple heralded the iPad as a reinvention of mobile computing; a device that could do most of what your desktop or notebook could do, but in a smaller, lighter form-factor.
Initially available in only a 9.7-inch display size, sales of the iPad quickly took off, skyrocketing to become Apple’s No. 2 revenue generator right behind the iPhone. It wasn’t long before Apple began to expand its lineup, adding the smaller 7.9-inch iPad mini in 2012, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in late 2015, and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro in early 2016.
However, over the years, it appears that Apple has lost its way with regards to how it wants to market the iPad family. Or it could just be that consumers simply are “over” the iPad phenomena and prefer more productive platforms. When it was first unveiled, the iPad was a $499+ novelty that allowed you to lounge on your couch and surf the web, catch up on a few TV shows via Netflix or tap out a quick email. And we can’t forget iBooks, which turned the iPad into a glorified eReader.
Unlike smartphones though, most consumers didn’t feel that urge to upgrade their iPads on a yearly or even every-other-year basis. Once you purchased an iPad, there was little reason to upgrade. Couple that with the rise of large screen smartphones (5.5-inches and larger), most people found that they didn’t need the bulkier form-factor of a tablet — especially when a smartphone can fit in your pocket. And we can’t forget that Microsoft has found a comfortable niche with its Surface Pro family of tablets, which unquestionably provide a more powerful and versatile computing platform than what’s possible on even the iPad Pro.
iPad shipments peaked in 2014 and have been on a steady decline since. During its most recent completed quarter (fiscal Q4 2016), iPad sales declined another 6 percent year-over-year to 9.3 million. This is even after retailers have thrown rather steep discounts on the entire family of iPads, including the entry-level iPad mini. And the average selling price of the iPad has fallen from around $650 when the tablet first launched 7 years ago to just over $450 today as the cheaper iPad mini has begun to proliferate in the marketplace.
It remains to be seen if Apple will continue to see dwindling sales of its once prized product category. As we become even more attached to our smartphones and embrace models with even larger screens (the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 is expected to be available in 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch screen sizes), will there still be a place for a tablet device that slots in between a smartphone and a fully-fledged laptop or PC-based convertible? Perhaps it is time to reinvent the iPad, as it appears that consumers are getting tired of more of the same.