While the new 6th Generation iPad was framed almost exclusively in terms of its usefulness and capabilities for the education market at Apple’s release event this week, the reality of its appeal promises to be FAR broader. Between the current focus on education and the robust features and specs of the iPad Pros, it is easy to forget about the iPad’s more general reach. However, it was the release of the new iPad’s predecessor and its new focus on delivering solid features at a more competitive price that finally reversed the fortunes of Apple’s tablets last year.
A very good year
Before the release of the Fifth Gen iPad last Spring, the Apple’s iPad lineup had seen shrinking sales and profits for three straight years. After the tablet’s meteoric rise in sales and market influence, this sudden reversal called Apple’s focus on the category and continued statements that they saw the iPad as the future of computing into serious question.
However, the less expensive iPad made an immediate impact and reversed this trend in its first quarter on the market. The new features of the iPad Pros, released over the two previous years, had not been enough to get existing iPad users to upgrade, but the price and value of the iPad did. It set the ball rolling in the right direction again, and then the updated iPad Pros and new iPad-centric features in iOS 11 that came last June helped to keep sales strong the rest of 2017.
The next step
While I think the new Sixth Gen iPad can help Apple to hold onto parts of the education market, the vast majority of the sales of this new device will be to the general public. The new model takes the same formula that made its predecessor a success, and simply adds to it. The A10 processor brings more speed and power into the picture. This may not have been as much of an issue when the Fifth Gen was first released, but after iOS 11 and all of its iPad-centric multitasking improvements, it is a welcome addition now. My son’s iPad arrived yesterday, and I can attest to its snappy performance with two apps open.
Obviously, the biggest update to the iPad is the inclusion of Apple Pencil support. Now, I am fully aware that this isn’t going to matter to a lot of potential buyers. The Pencil’s retail price of $99 is a big pill to swallow, and other than buying used or Open Box, there aren’t many alternative options (it is unfortunate that the Logitech Crayon won’t be available via retail, as it sounds like a nice step-down product).
However, when you consider that the price of this iPad is the same as last year’s, then the inclusion of Pencil support just becomes a solid value add. For those who want or need a high-end stylus, the new iPad instantly becomes a great value. And without a price increase, it just becomes another line item on the spec sheet that others can take or leave. If nothing else, Pencil support should keep sales of the iPad consistent. However, I have a feeling that they will increase, as will overall sales of the Pencil.
Intruding on the Pro?
I think it is a foregone conclusion that the new iPad will sell well, just like its predecessor did. However, what we won’t know until later this year is how much of an impact it will have on the sales of the iPad Pro, especially the 10.5″ model. While the Pros have far superior screens, ProMotion and True Color support, and more processing power and RAM, the most recognizable differentiators were screen size and Apple Pencil support. One of those is now gone. Potential buyers who would like Pencil support, but don’t need the other higher-end features of the Pro, now have the option to get what they want at a much lower starting price.
This situation could still change, as rumors point to another significant upgrade to the iPad Pro coming as soon as June at WWDC. The removal of the Home Button will deliver a larger screen experience in a smaller and lighter sized device, and Face ID will bring Apple’s popular new facial recognition security features to the iPad for the first time. However, despite these improvements, I would not be at all surprised to see iPad sales increase, but the Average Sales Price fall a bit.
No matter what, I expect this new Sixth Gen iPad to sell very well throughout 2018. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see some nice discounts to help close out remaining Fifth Gen iPad stock. For a buyer who doesn’t care about the Apple Pencil and is looking for a deal, keep an eye out over the next few weeks. These iPad sales, combined with those that the upgraded Pros should bring later in the year, should keep the iPad back in the black for Apple throughout 2018.