Falling iPad sales aren’t quite what they seem

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iPad mini is the weak link in Apple's tablet business.
iPad mini is the weak link in Apple's tablet business.
Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

iPad sales have been falling for years now, but it turns out that Apple’s tablet business isn’t dying quite as quickly as it may seem.

In fact, if you take the iPad mini out of the equation, iPad sales are actually on the up.

When it made its debut in November 2012, the iPad mini seemed like a terrific idea. It was the perfect tablet for Apple fans who felt the 9.7-inch iPad was too big, and it was much more affordable. It also sold incredibly well for a while.

Towards the end of 2013, after the iPad mini finally got a Retina display, sales of the smaller model were just as strong as those of the iPad and iPad Air. But that didn’t last long. By the middle of 2014, sales of the iPad mini had started falling — and they haven’t stopped.

The nosedive has been so significant that it has been making the rest of the iPad business look bad. But according to a report from Above Avalon citing data from Fiksu, if you ignore the iPad mini, Apple tablet sales have been up for the past two quarters.

“For the past four years, we have seen various theories put forth to explain the significant drop in iPad sales. Longer upgrade cycles, larger iPhones, inferior software, lack of professional apps, and even poor Apple storytelling have been given as factors driving iPad sales weakness.

“Instead, the iPad’s problem has been the iPad mini,” the report reads.

iPad sales with without mini
iPad sales are on the up… if you ignore the iPad mini.
Photo: Fiksu

Neil Cybart believes that there are several reasons for the decline in iPad mini interest, chief of which is Apple’s decision to market the iPad as a computer killer. This has boosted sales of larger models while leaving the iPad mini out in the cold.

There’s no doubt that the lack of attention paid to the iPad mini is another big factor. The most recent model available is the iPad mini 4, which is powered by an aging A8 processor first introduced in 2014, and costs $70 more than the new 9.7-inch iPad.

Apple will continue to push the iPad as a laptop replacement at the expense of the Mac, so it’s no surprise that its focus will be on larger models that users find more productive. But it looks like the iPad mini is already on its last legs.

Apple has clearly recognized the smaller model is the weakest link in its tablet chain, which is why the iPad mini hasn’t seen a proper refresh in over 18 months. According to recent rumors, we shouldn’t expect to see a new model anytime this year, either.

If that’s the case, overall iPad sales will likely continue to decline. But so long as the rest of the lineup continues to pick up speed, it’s only a matter of time before the iPad mini gets cut loose and tablet sales are on the up again.

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7 responses to “Falling iPad sales aren’t quite what they seem”

  1. Annon E Moose says:

    Never mind declining sales for the Mini, I want to know how profitable it is for Apple. So sales are down—so what? I’ll bet Apple is still raking in a bundle.

    I would guess Apple is just milking the Mini, as they do with the rest of their computer products nowadays. Look how long it took them to upgrade the MacBook Pro. Computer technology isn’t racing ahead like it used to, so there isn’t the demand for upgrading as often.

    Remember a year ago when everyone was saying the Apple Watch was a bit of a flop, suggesting Apple might discontinue it? But sales are way up now, and their development costs are being spread over many more years as they rake in the bucks.

    Apple may eventually come out with a Mini Pro, but only when it’s the most profitable time to do so. Gone are the days when Steve Jobs pushed technology to the limits just because he could. Now the name of the game at Apple is maximum profitability.

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  3. t_linn says:

    I’d buy an iPad Mini today (my first iPad) if it offered up-to-date technology.

  4. Richard Ludwig says:

    So… if I’m looking at this chart correctly, in this last quarter’s “slump” for the Mini, it was one quarter of total iPad Sales. Are we really supposed to think that cutting 10 Million units sold from total sales would be a GOOD thing for Apple to do? You can’t assume all of those people would just buy a bigger iPad. It also looks like Mini sales have been pretty stable in the last year and a half – it’s the larger models that are still in a slump.

    This report is total garbage – The Mini is still making a pretty decent showing – it’s Apple’s lack of updates that stunt the Mini growth, not public response.

    • ljmac43 says:

      I totally agree – the mini really boosted sales at first, and since then has been trending with the sales of larger models. It’s only down very recently, and what do you expect given Apple’s lack of updates? The article’s claims simply are not borne out by the graph, unless you only look at the last quarter.

    • Costa K says:

      I agree.

      That last paragraph is full of so many contradictions.

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