Is the iPad really dead?

A common theme in the media these days is the decline in iPad sales, but what tends to go unnoticed is the decline in Android tablet sales and the tablet market as a whole. Is it fair to say that the iPad is no longer the most popular computing device and PC alternative that it was just a few years ago? Is the pill market as a whole in decline?

Or is the iPad one of the most popular computing devices in the world? Let’s look at some facts:

  • The 8.9 million iPads sold in the first quarter of 2017 accounted for nearly one in four tablets sold and outsold the next two manufacturers combined. Samsung sold 6 million tablets and Huawei 2.7 million.
  • Compared to the PC market, the iPad’s 8.9 million sales would put it in fourth place, just behind Dell’s 9.35 million. Lenovo with 12.3 million and HP with 12.1 million PC sales.
  • Apple’s Mac line of desktops and laptops 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. What is going on with sales to cause all the fuss?

The tablet market as a whole sold 8.5% fewer units in the first quarter of this year compared to last year. Apple’s iPad fell 13.5% in sales compared to last year. One thing to keep in mind when comparing these numbers is that Apple reports actual iPad sales, while Android sales are estimates based on shipping. But any way you look at it, the numbers show that Apple is taking a beating, right?

In the first quarter of 2016, two months had passed since Apple released its latest iPad, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. In the first quarter of this year, nine months had passed since the launch of the Pro. This disparity in the release cycle, combined with the general trend of the tablet market, may explain why Apple fell a little 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-per-use plans. The iPad is still waiting for you. 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?

It is not entirely true. The iPad 2 and the original iPad mini still account for about 40% of the iPad audience. Here are a few things they have in common: They both run on the aging Apple A5 processor, neither has a Retina display, they don’t have Touch ID or Apple Pay, and they don’t work with Apple Pencil or the new Smart Keyboard.

But people still love them. Why? Because they still work great. So why should they update?

About half of all iPads are about to become obsolete

People may love the iPad 2 and iPad mini, but that love may be short-lived. About half of iPad models used in the real world will soon find that they can no longer download new apps from the App Store. They also won’t be able to receive new updates to apps they already have on their iPad. This should push many to finally upgrade.

This will happen when Apple stops supporting 32-bit applications. Apple moved to a 64-bit architecture with the iPad Air, but apps on the App Store are able to maintain backward compatibility with earlier iPad models by delivering both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. This is about to change. By the end of 2017, Apple will no longer accept 32-bit apps on the App Store. This translates to no new apps or app updates for iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, or iPad Mini owners. (The original iPad has been obsolete for a few years now, though it still has its uses.)

Learn more about how older iPad models become obsolete here.

Why is Apple Dropping Support for 32-bit apps?

It’s actually a very good thing for the iPad. Apps designed for iPad Air and later models, including iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 4, will be able to offer much more robust features. These models not only run on a 64-bit architecture, they are also faster and have more memory dedicated to running applications. Apple has already drawn the line in the sand for features like multitasking, which requires at least an iPad Air or iPad mini 2 for slider multitasking and an iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 4 for split-screen multitasking.

This translates into better applications for everyone. But it also means that owners of older iPad models will start to feel the pressure to finally upgrade as we head into 2018. With these models taking up half the market share of real-world iPads, this should translate on a decent increase in Apple sales.