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Apple's iPad sales are terrible. They sunk 9% to 13.3 million units last quarter and performed even worse than analysts expected. Apple has lost a ton of market share to other, cheaper manufacturers, too, according to IDC. Apple invented — or at least substantially reinvented — the tablet category, and yet it now sells only 27% of all tabs. All of Apple's other products (except for the iPod) saw rising sales recently.
Why, of all Apple's products, has the iPad turned into such a sales stinker?
The counterintuitive answer may be that the iPad is losing sales because it is too good.
People use their iPads for a long time, according to Benedict Evans, an analyst at Andreessen Horowitz. Using numbers published by Google about its Android tablet user base, and comparing them with Apple's published numbers, Evans concluded that an iPad's useful life is twice as long as an Android tablet's — iPads are actively used by an average consumer for more than two years, Evans says, whereas Android tablets are often abandoned on average after less than a year:
... Android tablets have an average active life of a little under a year. Or, that they have a life of more like two years (say) but half of them are inactive.
Conversely, it's pretty clear that the active life of an iPad is if anything too long, from Apple's point of view — at least two years and probably longer. Apple has sold 143m iPads in the last two years and 196m in the last three.
That, in turn, implies that each iPad unit sale is worth 2x more active devices over time than an Android tablet sale — before looking at actual usage.
Evans acknowledges his numbers have holes in them — Google doesn't publish unit sales or Android activation numbers on a regular basis. So it's an estimation. But his analysis implies that the long active life of an iPad leads to a longer replacement/upgrade cycle, thus depressing sales.
And it dovetails with what we've heard anecdotally — that once people get an iPad, they keep it and don't feel the need for a new one for a long, long time.
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