Apple released its fiscal third quarter 2013 earnings yesterday, but one stat in particular really stuck out: Apple sold 14.6 million iPads during the quarter, a figure that represented 2.4 million fewer iPad sales than the 17 million sold during the same quarter in 2012. But why? Does Apple have a major problem we should all be concerned about? Are competitors eating up its market share? No, not really. Apple doesn’t have a problem with iPad sales. Instead, one can look at the company’s release pattern, and in turn its inventory, to see why the drop-off actually occurred.
Last year, in March, Apple released its third-generation iPad. As such, consumers were buying the device more frequently due to its fresh arrival on the market. Apple has yet to release a new iPad this year, so the product family didn’t have that same boost that it did last year. That’s the short and easy end of it.
Tim Cook explained this during Apple’s earnings call after the markets closed on Tuesday. “We had a 2.4 million unit decline, but 80 percent was due to channel inventory changes,” he explained. Apple and its retail partners had a bunch of iPads to sell during the third quarter of 2012 because it had a brand new device that was announced a month prior (Apple’s fiscal results include the three month period ended June 29, 2013). Without a fresh tablet to sell this year yet, Apple’s sales naturally declined. It’s possible we’ll see the company make up that units shipped lost when it does release the next iPad.
Remember: the latest full-sized iPad was announced in October, 2012 and the iPad mini was announced a month later. In other words, yesterday’s report includes 7-8 months without an iPad refresh while the third quarter of last year included the three month from April to June of 2012 when the iPad 3 was a brand new product.
As I noted earlier, it’s entirely possible that Apple will make up that 2.4 million unit decline when it announces its next tablet. Though certainly, at some point, saturation, competition and the collective consumer mind that hates paying for upgrades could cause a decline in sales over time.