A lot of pundits are bemoaning over the flat sales of the iPad, declining sales of tablets overall, and the absence of radical improvements to the iPad lineup that would spark replacement sales.
Flat sales would be a large issue if it was caused by less users using and enjoying the product. It would however not be an issue if people were holding on to their old product longer, but still actively using and enjoying it. That is to say, what matters is not the number of units sold per quarter. What matters is how many people are using it.
One way to understand how many people are using iPads is to look at web usage data. Although web usage data is only a crude proxy, I believe that it can give us a good idea of the trends if we are take sufficient care. Here, I have taken web usage data from StatCounter.
What we see is that iPad web usage (we are only looking at Desktop & Tablet devices so iOS is equal to iPad) has steadily risen since its introduction in 2011. In the USA data, we see usage stagnating in 2013. However this has recovered in 2014. We also do not see a similar slowdown in neither UK nor Europe data, so we don’t think that the USA stagnation is something to seriously contemplate.
This strongly suggests that despite a slowdown in sales since 2013, iPad usage has risen steadily since introduction. The longevity of old devices like the iPad2 has definitely contributed to this. In fact, the iPad 2 is still the most used iPad model.
Of course, this is not without its problems. If old devices stick around too long, it can slow down progress in the ecosystem since developers will have to support older and less capable devices. Although this is an issue that Apple definitely has to address, this is a totally different issue from the tablet category losing appeal.
So to summarize, despite a slowdown in sales, more and more people are actively using iPads and enjoying them. Although it would be ideal if sales were rising, it is more important for Apple to ensure that more and more people start using iPads and continue to love them. Apple seems to be doing this quite successfully. However, Apple will have an issue in the future with fragmentation because old devices will stay in use for longer.