Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)has now reported three straight quarters in a row of year-over-year declines in iPad sales. Fortunately, its new iPhones are selling like hotcakes, which helps Apple drive pretty incredible levels of profit. Despite this, investors nonetheless seem concerned about Apple's iPad sales over the long term.
I don't think the iPad is "dead" as some have suggested. I believe that iPad sales could even be due for a rebound during the next year.
The large iPad product stack is compelling
Apple's refreshed product lineup is quite compelling. For $399, a user can get an iPad Air, which still features a modern, attractive industrial design with solid internals. While this view is fairly subjective, I think that cost-conscious customers will find the iPad Air a much better relative value compared to the iPad 4 that came before it. At this price, the original iPad Air could help drive upgrades, particularly among iPad 2 users. As fellow Fool Adam Levine-Weinberg points out, the iPad 2 is still the most popular iPad in use.
For buyers willing to spend more on iPads, the iPad Air 2 also delivers a much better relative value than what the prior generation iPad Air offered. It packs Touch ID, a very powerful A8X chip, a better camera, and all sorts of other goodies that, in my view, make it a tempting upgrade from even last year's iPad Air.
Apple is also offering iPad Air 2 models with 64-gigabytes and128-gigabytes of storage at the same price points that last year's 32-gigabyte and 64-gigabyte Air models, respectively, fetched at launch. This could also help convince users of older iPads that it might be time to upgrade, particularly as they can get a much improved device and much larger storage relative to what was available last year.
The iPad mini stack, on the other hand...
Fellow Fool Evan Niu wrote an excellent piece on how Apple didn't seem to give its iPad Mini lineup anywhere close to as much love as it gave the iPad Air 2. "It should be telling that Apple literally spent less than a minute discussing the iPad Mini 3 at the event last week," writes Niu. "Perhaps the company is encouraging upsells to the flagship iPad Air 2, or maybe it simply doesn't care about the small tablet market anymore."
I tend to think that this is more a case of the former rather than the latter. For $100 more than the iPad Mini 3, the iPad Air 2 offers a bigger -- and, if last year's Air/Mini pair were any indication, a higher quality -- display, a much faster processor, and a thinner and, from my experience, lighter feeling industrial design. So, for customers who are willing to pay the extra $100, the Air 2 makes sense.
For users who are willing to pay a premium, but must have a 7.9-inch iPad, the iPad Mini 3's Touch ID functionality is likely a "must have." Finally, given how much more the customer gets with the iPad Mini 2 for $299 over the iPad Mini for $249 (much faster processor and significantly better display), I'd be willing to second Niu's bet that the iPad Mini 2 will be the best selling of the iPad Mini lineup.
The "new to iPad" numbers allegedly still look good
On Apple's most recent earnings call, CEO Tim Cook stated that, in the top six countries by iPad revenue, the percentage of those iPad sales that went to first time iPad buyers was 50 to "over 70" percent. Cook alleges that this is strong evidence that the market isn't saturated, and that this reflects the fact that "people hold on to iPad longer than they do a phone."
While the relatively weak sales numbers in recent times have been discouraging, it is encouraging to see that Apple continues to grow its iPad installed base, which could serve as fuel when the iPad refresh cycle kicks in.
Foolish bottom line
I think that the iPad Air 2 and the lower prices on the original iPad Air should help catalyze an iPad upgrade cycle. Further, while the new iPad Mini stack isn't the best that it could have potentially been from a feature perspective, at $299, the Mini 2 offers a meaningfully greater value proposition than the original Mini did at $299, or even at today's price of $249.
All in all, I remain cautiously optimistic that Adam is right, and that "higher iPad replacement demand going forward should help stabilize iPad sales."
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.