Why Apple Isn't Worried About iPad Sales Numbers

NEWS ANALYSIS: Analysts seem surprised Apple's iPads didn't sell in the same high volume as iPhones, which likely shows they don't understand the tablet market.

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When Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed his company's earnings July 22, he noted that iPad sales were lower than some analysts had expected. Cook also said he wasn't worried about those numbers and, in fact, said sales were in line with Apple's expectations.

But Cook's statement that the company is happy with iPad sales hasn't stopped a number of analysts from expressing alarm, seeking answers (usually in the wrong places) or suggesting that the end is near for the iPad. Clearly, a number of analysts don't understand that the iPad isn't an iPhone, and expecting similar sales numbers is lunacy.

In fact, the iPad is selling just fine, as Cook noted. So why the difference in sales between the iPhone and the iPad? The fact is that there are some major differences between the two seemingly similar devices that dictate how they're used, by whom and under what circumstances.

The most obvious difference is that the iPad isn't a phone. That means it's being sold to people who have different needs than people who buy phones. That also means the iPad doesn't have the heavy subsidies that phones have, which means the up-front cost for an iPhone is usually lower.

But the real difference is in how the devices are used. iPads are used to display information in a format where it can be read easily, where data entry is easier than it is on a small device such as a smartphone, and where the primary interface is the larger screen. The characteristics that make an iPad so attractive for reading ebooks, entering data, searching the Web or displaying presentations also make it less sensitive to the relentless upgrade cycle that Apple engages in.

I see these factors in the iPads I own. And from what I can tell, the pattern is similar for other owners. I bought a first-generation iPad about six months after it was introduced, primarily for use as an e-reader prior to a long trip. The fact that I could synchronize my music from iTunes and also watch videos made it very attractive. But all I needed was the WiFi version.

I didn't bother with the iPad 2 because it wasn't that different from the one I already had. When the third-generation iPad shipped, I got one for the Retina display and for the cellular communications. I didn't get another iPad until the iPad Air came out and along with it support for T-Mobile's free data.

Now, that's a lot more iPads than most people buy. If I were actually using it in business as a device for note-taking and presentations, chances are I'd have stopped at the third-generation version, which is really just about as good as the iPad Air.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...