Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

October 22, 2013 • Editorials

iPad Usage Breakdown Highlights Importance of Today’s Announcements

iPad 2 Remains Most Popular

iPad 2 Remains Most Popular

It may seem a bit late for rumination on the state of the iPad since we are expecting a refresh of the entire line in a few hours, but a report yesterday from Localytics put it in perspective: the most used iPad today is the iPad 2. You know, the one released back in early 2011, over 2.5 YEARS ago!

Looking at the graph, you see that the iPad 2 accounts for 38% of all iPads. The original iPad has only 8% share, with the iPad 3, iPad 4 and iPad Mini getting 19%, 18% and 17% respectively. More to the point – BOTH iPads released in late 2012 combine for less share than the iPad 2. The iPad 3 is a strange case as it was killed off after 7 months when the iPad 4 was released.

Here is my opinion – while the iPad and iPad 2 were revolutionary products that seemed priced very fairly, Apple has burned themselves through a series of mis-steps and is now out of touch with the mainstream buying public … which makes today their biggest announcement event in a long time in many ways. Let me explain further.

iPad 3 Was a Mixed Bag Release:
The iPad 3 was a solid release because of the Retina display, but in typical Apple fashion that was pretty much all you got. The processor was bumped and the anemic video RAM was also increased. But in general it was a solid tablet that was exactly what everyone expected Apple to release and sold pretty well.

iPad 4 / iPad Mini:
It is easy to dismiss the iPad 4 as an iPad 3 refresh with Lightning connector … because that is what it is. You moved from A5X to A6X processor, got a better front-facing camera, and that is all. Pricing remained identical. For many customers this was a double-edged sword: there was little incentive to upgrade yet again after such a short time, and with the iPad Mini Apple set the bar for developers back to the iPad 2 so there was even LESS reason to upgrade!

The iPad Mini was the answer to the Nexus 7 / Kindle Fire / Samsung Android tablets. However, whereas the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 had HD screens (1280 x 800), the iPad Mini was essentially a scaled-down iPad 2 in nearly every way, from the 1074 x 768 screen to the older processor to limited video RAM and more. Pricing on the iPad Mini started at $329, which was a full $130 higher than the Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7.

So How Is Apple Out of Touch?

– Base Pricing: when it came out in 2010 the iPad at $499 was a great price for a great tablet. Nearly four years later releasing a base model with the same memory for the same price puts Apple way at the top end of the market.

– Upgrade Pricing: What is so special about Apple memory compared to ASUS, Amazon and Samsung that theirs should cost $100 whereas all others only charge $40-50 to step from 16GB-32GB or 32GB-64GB? Nothing … and it is taking a toll by making Apple not just more expensive in fact, but also makes them look very greedy.

– Options: The iPad 1 had a cool keyboard dock. The Smart Cover came out in 2011. Since then? Nothing.

– Upgrade Incentives: the iPad Mini had an unintended consequence of LOWERING the bar for new iPad applications. One of the big draws of buying a new product is being able to put it to use – look at Infinity Blade III with the new iPhone 5s as an example. But Apple didn’t want people getting the new iPad Mini to be left behind, and as a result new games look pretty much ‘meh’ to me. There is no technical reason to upgrade anymore.

How Can Apple Re-Capture Its Mojo?

– Make the iPad Cool Again With Exclusive Mind-Blowing Apps: we ned to see something today that we can’t get anywhere else, and that won’t even think about running on ANY existing iPad.

– Give Us a Cool Accessory: I’ve seen the ‘iPad keyboard cover’ rumors the last few days, and frankly I don’t see that happening – no matter how much I would love one myself! But Apple needs to do more than introduce an iPad 5 that has a smaller bezel and is fractionally thinner … they need to give us something fun and cool to go along with it.

– Fix Pricing: an iPad 5 LTE 64GB at $829 is more than non-competitive, it is an insult and DOA in the broader market. I know Apple needs to make their profits in different ways than Amazon or Google, but they need to remember that they make ZERO profit on an unsold tablet, or when someone gets sticker shock and buys at Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – which costs $579 for the 64GB LTE version.

What do you think? Will Apple actually take a leadership role today or just do another ‘same speech, new year’ announcement?

5 Responses to " iPad Usage Breakdown Highlights Importance of Today’s Announcements "

  1. Doug Miller says:

    The processor upgrade in the 4 was pretty big compared with the 3, wasn’t it? It wasn’t just a spec bump. I know there are things the 4 can do in ios7 that my 3 cannot.

    I think Apple has done just fine with the iPad line. I can see no missteps at all. It seems clear that the 4 upgrade was done to reset the sales cycle to the last quarter of the year; rather than wait 18 months, as the iPhone 5 waited 15 months to get on that cycle, Apple did two versions in the same year.

    Anyway, I see no other company selling as many devices, with as much profit, as Apple sells iPads. I can’t think of anything that they could do differently that would make any difference at all.

    • dancohen says:

      I agree Doug and I think the new iPads, while pricey, are solidly impressive offerings. I’m anxious to get my hands on a tablet with a 9.7″ screen, Apple’s power and speed and a weight of just 1 lbs!

    • Actually you are completely correct Doug – the more I looked into it, the more the iPad 3 is clearly the ‘lemon’ of the iPad lineup. It was underpowered for the Retina display, and apparently has a number of hardware bugs that were never patched out because the life was so short … so current owners generally experience more app issues than any other iPad.

      As for mis-steps … my opinion is that the iPad 2 STILL at $399 is a mis-step. But I question that because there simply MUST be a reason why (a) they kept pricing firm and (b) they kept a 30-pin device in the lineup.

      • Doug Miller says:

        The only reasons that I can have heard that make sense for the iPad 2 still being available at that price point are for the education/enterprise market, where hundreds may be purchased at a time, and $200 a piece is big savings, and full sized iPads are preferable to minis. Just think how confusing it would be to, say, a school system in the midst of a staged iPad rollout to have some devices that are 30 pin, some lightning; some pre-retina, some retina.

        Another reason is for the odd consumer with a ton of 30 pin accessories who wants to stay away from lightning – but that seems like a small, small number of people, so I can’t believe Apple is all that upset about losing those few odd consumers.

        It seems to me that anybody who is price sensitive who MUST have an iPad will now go with the non-retina Mini rather than the non-retina iPad 2.

        Your post does make me wonder, though, if Apple is painting itself into a corner by these small, evolutionary updates to the iPad line. At some point the small updates will not be enough, and its reliance on a small number of display sizes and configurations could come back to haunt it if some future device from another manufacturer comes out with something that will upset the market. They can only ride this market for so long. I hope, for Apple’s sake, that in some corner of its R&D lab, Apple is developing some cool new thing that will revolutionize mobile computing. Because, if it is not, somebody else will.

        • I think that what Apple is doing works on the ‘every other year’ plan. I mean, I didn’t even think about the iPhone 5S, still very happy with the 5. And I am typing this on an iPad Mini, so I can only imagine the differential performance of the iPad Air …

          And totally agree – I think that like the iPods and Macbooks, Apple is still working on iPads but it is mainstream ‘D’ at this point and no longer true ‘R’ … it will be interesting to see where THAT goes.

Leave a Reply