Sales of the iPad took an unexpected tumble last quarter (Q3 13), with shipments falling by 5.4 million compared to the year-ago quarter. This has led some to believe that the market for Apple's slate has become saturated in a little over three years.
Christopher Mims and Richie King of Quartz throw at lot of pretty charts and numbers at readers in an attempt to convince them that the iPad market is saturated.
Rather, it seems that the overall market for tablets is beginning to saturate, leading to slowing sales of the iPad. Pew recently found that 34% of American adults now own a tablet, with even higher penetration among households earning $75,000 or more (56%) and college graduates (49%). It’s certainly possible that the drop in iPad sales is due to cannibalization by Android tablets—which now have almost the same global market share as iPads and are shipping in greater numbers each quarter—but many of those tablets are of the cheaper, lower-end variety.
But the charts and infographics aren't convincing me for a number of reasons.
First, here's a chart showing a saturated market. It shows iPod sales, a product that has ben on the market for over a decade. Everyone who wants one already has three.
This is a saturated market.
Apple has sold almost 400 million iPhones, and that market is still going strong, so it is a little hard to imagine that after three years and 155 million sold that the iPad is juggernaut has hit the buffers.
Then there are the sales themselves. Shipping 14.6 million iPads in a quarter is not shabby by any means. It took Apple 15 quarters (between Q3 07 and Q1 11) before it managed to shift this many iPhones in a quarter. On top of that, despite a fall in sales the last quarter was still Apple's fifth best quarter for the iPad (behind Q1 13, Q2 13, Q3 12, and Q1 12).
Then there's the 40 million iPads that Apple managed to shift during Q1 13 and Q2 13. Over the two quarter following the release of a new iPad and the iPad Mini, Apple shifted almost a third of all the iPads sold so far. High demand following the release of a new product invariably leads to a fall off in demand. This, in my opinion, is the most likely reason why iPad sales fell so dramatically.
There are similar patterns present in the iPhone sales data.
Finally, what about all the new territories that Apple is expanding into, such as China. These markets are fresh, and about as far away from saturation as you can get.