iPad Pro’s winning redesign takes sting out of iPhone slump

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2018 iPad Pro Smart Keyboard
The launch of the 2018 iPad Pro gave Apple a stellar holiday season in tablet sales.
Photo: Apple

iPad shipments grew by double digits last quarter, giving Apple its best holiday period for tablet sales since 2015.  Shipments of slates and 2-in-1s had dropped earlier in the year, but analysts correctly predicted this was the result of people holding off for the new iPad Pro.

Some of Apple’s rivals also saw gains at the end of 2018.

2018 iPad Pro is a hit

Apple saw a 10 percent year-over-year rise in tablet shipments in the October-to-December period. The total was 14.5 million, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

The company hasn’t sold that many units in Q4 since 2015, before the market for the iPad mini dropped off following the introduction of large-screen iPhone models.

“Apple is attempting to remake the computing market with more mobile iPad Pros for productivity while offering lower priced iPad slates for entertainment,” said Eric Smith from IDC. “The product mix tilted toward iPad Pro due to the launch of its newest products in that line and boosted ASPs to $463 this quarter from $445 in 2017.”

More unit sales combined with a rise in the average selling price (ASP) combined to increase Apple’s revenue from tablets by 17 percent year-over-year.

For all of 2018, Apple shipped 44.9 million iPads, up from 43.8 million in the previous year.

Good news for many tablet makers

Apple had 26.5 percent of the global tablet market in the final quarter of last year. A distant second is Samsung with 13.7 percent. This Korean company saw a 7 percent rise in shipments, its first global quarterly shipment growth since 2014.

Amazon, in third place in the world tablet market, moved the same number of units as it had in the same quarter of 2017.

Samsung, Amazon, and others make Android tablets. The combined total of slates using this operating system dropped 6 percent.

Strategy Analytics compares the top tablet vendors during Q4 2018.
Strategy Analytics compares the top tablet vendors during Q4 2018.
Chart: Strategy Analytics

Microsoft didn’t make it into the top 5 in this product category, but it still enjoyed a strong quarter. “Microsoft shipments increased 25% from the previous quarter on high seasonality and as a result, it has retaken its leadership position in Windows Detachable 2-in-1s with the release of the lower cost Surface Go and a refreshed Surface Pro all in the last half of 2018. This is the fourth straight quarter of year-on-year shipment and revenue gains for Microsoft,” said IDC’s Chirag Upadhyay.

Looking ahead, Apple is expected to launch an updated iPad mini this year, as well as a second inexpensive tablet.