Apple iPad Fad Is Over

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Buried in Apple's recent quarterly earnings report is what some observers are calling the obituary for the iPad. That's because in the recent quarter sales fell 9.2%. That follows a 16% drop three months earlier.

In the second quarter 2013, iPad sales had vaulted up 84%.

Electronic devices have short lives. Consider the Palm Pilot. A must-have in 2002, a what's-that by 2005. Or BlackBerry - 10 million subscribers in 2007, absolutely irrelevant by 2012.

Should iPad figure in these lists? Indeed, it is beginning to resemble the iPod, which went from selling 22 million units in Q1 2008 to 6 million in Q4 2013. In Q1 2013, iPod sales totaled more than twice as much: 12.7 million.

Even Apple fanboys are on an iPod death watch - who needs it when a 16 GB iPhone can store perhaps 4,000 songs and the audio quality is equal to an iPod? Many cars - from the Ford Fusion to the BMW 328i - offer easy ways to link an iPhone into the car stereo system. Call this a war that Apple won, but it won it for the iPhone and the countdown to oblivion for iPod - introduced in 2002, by the way - is now loud. After all, 12 years in electronic gadget years is a long run.

Could the iPad go the same way? Introduced in 2010, the iPad is comparatively youthful, even for an electronic device, but it has drawbacks. Two big ones.

Price for starters. A well equipped iPad nudges near $1,000. The cost of even a stripped iPad Air approaches $500.

That money, even for the cheapest iPad, would buy a ChromeBook laptop ($249 via Samsung) and leave dough for a Nexus 7" tablet ($229).

Do the math.

The other fact: Apple watchers are convinced that two new product introductions will happen before year end. One is iWatch - a smart Apple watch intended to compete against archrival Samsung's smart watches. The company won a patent on a smart watch July 22 and, although (per its custom) it has neither confirmed nor denied an iWatch release, most Apple watchers view this as a dead certainty. It also, incidentally, would mark CEO Tim Cook's first product intro at Apple.

The other product: iPhone 6, widely rumored to debut in September and, get this, Apple watchers are convinced it will come in a slender 4.7" form factor (roughly today's size) and also a beefy 5.5" (a match for Samsung Galaxy S5).

It's the big screen that may emerge as the iPad killer. Big screen phones as a class are called phablets - a portmanteau word resulting from joining "ph" from phone with "ablet" from tablet. That's accurate because big phones act a lot like tablets.

Said Joe Silverman, owner of New York Computer Help: "phablets do everything tablets do and are typically zippier from app to app. More importantly, they are more portable and accessible than tablets. It used to be cool to carry around iPads. The novelty has run off especially since the same functionality can be done from phablets."

Jon Abt, co-president of Abt Electronics in Glenview, Ill., disagreed.

To call [iPad] a fad is silly," he said. "Apple created an entirely new computer category with this device. Sales may have fallen recently due to the intro of new android tablets by Samsung as well as new Windows 8 tablets from Asus and Lenovo. However, we do expect to see Apple sales climb once they release a new line of iPads. If history repeats itself, we expect those to come out at some point in the fall."

Time will tell who is right, but what I can say now is that, personally, I am on my third iPad (an iPad Air that cost around $900). I also own a Galaxy S5, and I have to say the iPad nowadays mainly is used to read Kindle books (although the Kindle Fire HD - now on sale under $150 - I also own does as good a job).

Will I buy a new iPad in the fall? Likely no.

That is one consumer's vote.

What's yours?

--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet

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