Why iPad Fanboy Said iQuit to Tablets

What a difference four years makes. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in January 2010, I opened my wallet wide and prepared to purchase two "tablets" -- one for me, one for my family -- when they shipped in March 2010. I was instantly hooked, as were my kids. Fast forward to the present, and my iPad is collecting dust in the corner. And Apple's quarterly iPad sales are now declining.

What happened to iPad fanboys like me? The simple answer is market squeeze. My iPhone -- with the iPhone 6 Plus -- finally grew up and out. And my PC -- a reliable MacBook Air -- remains a workhorse. Together, those two devices have eliminated my need for an in-between device like the iPad.

I suspect there are millions of former iPad users just like me. My first iPad App was The Wall Street Journal. I loved the "look and feel" of The Journal App. All of my favorite "print" sections were beautifully rendered for the iPad's multi-touch display. But gradually, The Journal App's performance on my original iPad grew worse and worse. Instead of buying a new tablet, I cut my losses and simply kept refreshing my iPhone -- finally getting my hands on the "phablet" iPhone 6 Plus screen about a week ago. So far, I love it.

iPad Apps Plus IBM: 4 Years Late

When the iPad first came along, venture capitalists, media startups and IT entrepreneurs "imagined" a new generation of big screen touch applications getting funded. Newspapers and Magazines hugged the iPad as a potential digital savior.  In some cases, iPad Apps have certainly taken off. And new efforts keep arriving. Osmo, an iPad-focused startup, just raised $12 million.

Then there's the case of IBM, which in July 2014 announced plans to develop more than 100 enterprise app for iOS. Yes, it's easy to imagine insurance, financial services, real estate and other vertical market apps on iPad. 

But I get the feeling that iPhone 6 Plus is "big enough" for a growing number of iOS users. Even before the new, larger-screen iPhone arrived, iPad sales were in decline. As Slashgear mentioned earlier this month:

"The iPad continued its slump [in Q4 2014], selling 12.3 million units this quarter. In Q3 2014, Apple moved about 13 million iPads -- a 7 percent drop. This time last year, Apple was telling us about iPad sales topping 14 million units, making this year's sales 13 percent lower than last year."

The new iPad Air 2 could give Apple's tablet a temporary lift, but I think there's no overcoming the two biggest issues facing the tablet market:

  • First, large smartphones are now "good enough" in terms of size and performance to rival many traditional tablets for most application needs.
  • Second, even without big-screen smartphones on the scene, the tablet upgrade cycle was in question. We're all trained to buy new smartphones every two years as part of a cell plan. The typical family budget -- and IT budget -- doesn't have a line item for endless tablet upgrades.

iPad ain't dead. My youngest son is a huge fan. But I sense he'll break the iPad habit as soon as he's old enough for a smartphone...