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No Contest: iPad Air Outpaces Previous iPad Adoption Rates

Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  )  is keeping quiet about how many iPad Airs it sold over the weekend, but early reports show the device has higher adoption rates than the iPad 4 and iPad 2. Considering that those devices had blockbuster fourth-quarter calendar sales, these early reports should make Apple investors optimistic about the holiday season.

Not revolutionary, but still enough
According to data from mobile app platform company Fiksu, users are adopting the iPad Air five times faster than the iPad 4 and two times faster than the iPad 2. Fiksu tracks the data by recording app launches, purchases, and registrations every hour to determine the amount of active iPads.

The graph below compares adoption rates for the iPad Air versus the iPad 4, up to three days after launch.

Data Source: Fiksu .

So after its launch weekend, the iPad Air makes up about 0.75% of all iPad usage. That may not seem like a lot, but consider that Air is not only significantly surpassing iPad 4's adoption rates, but also beat both the iPad 4 and the iPad Mini rates combined.

Why adoption rates matter
Apple is likely waiting to release the Retina iPad Mini before it reports sales numbers for the iPad Air. But that doesn't mean we don't have a little insight into how this current quarter may play out for iPad sales.

In November 2012, the iPad 4 with a Retina display and the iPad Mini went on sale. In the first weekend, sales of both devices totaled about 3 million units. Last week, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster estimated that 2.5 million-3.5 million Airs could be sold over the launch weekend. While that's just an estimate, the increase in unit sales would match up with Fiksu's higher adoption rate data.

Further evidence of a great iPad Air launch weekend came yesterday from AT&T. The company said the Air's launch weekend activations were 200% higher than activations for both the iPad 4 and the iPad Mini launch weekend activations last year. That's good news for Apple considering that AT&T is the second-largest wireless carrier behind Verizon Communications' wireless division.

The Air's new design may be the biggest point of differentiation from previous iPads, while the Retina Mini's new selling point will be its upgraded display. But new features and current adoption rates aren't the only thing the iPads have going for them. The calendar fourth quarter is historically a great period for Apple's iPad sales. The graph below shows the spike in fourth-quarter iPad sales over the past few years.

Source: Apple SEC filings.

The iPad Air's aesthetic and internal changes, combined with the iPad Mini's new Retina display and the traditionally solid fourth quarter iPad sales, mean Apple investors should expect iPad sales exceeding last year's fourth-quarter units, and possibly record-breaking sales for initial launches of both devices. We won't find out what the numbers are until the Retina iPad Mini launches later this month, but investors should nonetheless expect a great quarter for the device lineup.

You like iPads, we want to give you one
Apple's newest iPad Mini with Retina display might be hard to come by this quarter, given all the reports of supply constraints. Well, we're going to be sure to get a few -- and give them away! That's right: For the first time ever, The Motley Fool is hosting a contest where you can win a free iPad Mini with Retina display. All you have to do is tell us why you love The Motley Fool by clicking here! We'll pick the three most Foolish submissions to receive a free iPad Mini with Retina display.

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