It's common knowledge that Apple’s iPad, one of the most popular (if not the most popular) tablets on the market, hasn't been doing so hot lately. While iPhone and Mac sales are rising, the iPad has somewhat surprisingly continued a downward trend over the past few years. In Q1 of 2014, Apple sold 26 million iPads. Q1 of 2015 resulted in 21 million iPad sales. Only 16 million iPads were sold in Q1 of 2016.
It seems kind of weird to say “only” 16 million iPads were sold, as that's still quite a significant number in my book. From a business standpoint however, I imagine that's not a trend they want to continue following.
But tablets are kind of an enigma in the gadget industry. Having only become popular since the inception of the first iPad back in 2010, there was no way to truly predict what the upgrade cycle for them would be like. At this point I think it's safe to say that tablets have a place in the world, but it's neither the PC killer that many initially made them out to be, nor are they a replacement for phones. They're somewhere comfortably in between.
Personally, for me, tablets have always been a leisurely item that I enjoy using when a phone is too small and a laptop is too inconvenient. The iPad and the Galaxy Note are my favorite tablets, and I own one of each. But my Galaxy Note 8.0 was released in early 2013, and the iPad Air was released later that same year. Clearly I am not the type of person who upgrades their tablet religiously.
And really, I don’t know many who do. I know a lot of people that use tablets, but they use older tablets like I do. They don't typically use them for GPU or CPU-intensive activities, and instead use them for simpler tasks like web browsing, checking social networks, and reading. Even then it's not something that they typically use as often as their phone or their computer. A lot of issues that plague these other electronics – phones in particular – aren't as big of an issue in tablets. Battery life, for example, has never been a problem for me. My tablet lasts for days on a single charge (a benefit of being such a large device, I’m sure). And while 16GB of storage is laughable in my phone, it's extremely manageable on my tablet because I just don’t use it as much or as often.
So I am not surprised that iPad sales – and tablet sales in general – are declining at this point. And I'm not surprised that the expensive iPad Pro wasn't really a smash hit either. While I do think it's a good product, I didn't think the size, price, or features appealed to a mass market. However, if you were to cut down on the size and price but still keep a lot of the features, I think it might be something that a general consumer would consider upgrading to.
Two additional accessories were introduced along with the iPad Pro: the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. While these two accessories are by no means anything new to the industry, Apple did make several changes to make using a keyboard and a stylus seamless and more responsive.
The three-pronged Smart Connector on the iPad Pro not only makes it so that the Smart Keyboard can connect to the iPad Pro directly, but it also supplies the Smart Keyboard with power. There’s no need to charge the keyboard separately or finagle with Bluetooth pairings.
As for the Pencil, which does require charging and Bluetooth pairing, things are still different compared to your everyday stylus. The narrow tip of the Pencil is a big plus, making drawing and note-taking more precise and as realistic as ever. Latency – or lack thereof – is another big plus for the Pencil, making it so that there is very little lag between Pencil and screen. And although it requires a charge (which can be a hassle) the Pencil only needs to charge for 6 minutes in order to last a full charge, which is 12 hours. Not bad at all.
Really, the only drawback to either accessory is that it only works with the iPad Pro (and, perhaps, the price tag). But I think adding support of both accessories to the alleged iPad Air 3 (or 9.7-inch iPad Pro, as recent rumors suggest) could end up breathing new life into the iPad line. The smaller size and cheaper price tag, I feel, are much more appealing to the general consumer. Factoring in that these accessories are purchased separately means that people have to take that into consideration – and I think another big reason why the iPad Pro is ultimately a niche product. The starting price of $799 for the iPad Pro is off-putting, but when you also factor in $99 for a Pencil and $169 for the Smart Keyboard, that puts the bare minimum iPad Pro with accessories at a whopping $1,067 – a bit high for your average consumer.
Even so, if the iPad Air 3 does support both accessories, that would still put the iPad Air 3 plus accessories at $767 – still far from what most would consider a “great deal”, but $300 less for essentially the same thing as the iPad Pro (in a smaller package) is more palatable. I know that the only reason I would be interested in upgrading my iPad Air to an iPad Air 3 is if it supports the Pencil and Smart Keyboard; otherwise, I don’t think there’s much more that it would be able to do for me that my iPad Air - or most other tablets, for that matter - can't.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the matter? Would you only be interested in the iPad Air 3 if it supports Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, or would you be interested/not interested either way? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!