You really can’t blame Apple for not trying. For years, the manufacturer and its iPads have been considered by far the best option on the tablet market. And for 2024, the Cupertino company is said to have three major innovations planned for the Pro models of its tablet series.
But no matter how hard Apple tries, I believe that all the work on the tablets is a waste of effort. And that’s not even because the iPadOS software isn’t nearly as powerful as MacOS for MacBooks. And it’s also not because the competition in the form of Android and Windows tablets isn’t keeping up, meaning there’s no pressure to innovate.
The fact that the tablet market has been stagnating for years, not only for Apple but also for other companies, and has even shrunk massively in the second quarter of 2023, is, in addition to the economic situation, primarily due to one thing for me: the tablet itself.
iPad and Co.: The tablet is in a crisis of meaning
Because the tablet is in a crisis of meaning. As Jitesh Ubrani, Research Manager at the International Data Corporation (IDC), writes, tablet customers are increasingly splitting into two camps:
- Those that are in the expensive segment of iPads and Samsung Tab Ultras
- Those who buy cheaper alternatives from Xiaomi and Lenovo.
The priced middle class, on the other hand, is shrinking.
This matches my personal experience: Some people are looking for a tablet as a multimedia center for the living room, where they can read the news or entertain the children with YouTube in stressful moments. Others are looking for a fully-fledged work replacement for a notebook.
Especially with the latter, the path has not yet come to an end. Tablets have long been neglected, especially when it comes to software.
Mahmoud Itani summarized this nicely in a comment on XDA-Developers last year:
[…] I don’t deny that the iPad is an unrivaled, powerful block of glass and one of the best-selling tablets of all time. However, it appears to be experiencing an identity crisis. […] Today, the iPad doesn’t fit anywhere in my workflow – it’s a little bit of everything, but nothing of its own.
And now it may be too late to make up for this oversight. Himani Mukka, research manager at the market analysis company Canalys, suspects that laptops and desktops could soon overtake tablets in terms of productivity thanks to newer AI developments.
The solution could instead be to focus more on the other group of people who have less demanding expectations of the tablet – but also want to spend significantly less money.
Google has shown what this could look like with the Pixel Tablet.
Because the device is already available for under 700 euros. And even if you have to make clear compromises when it comes to the camera and display, Google seems to have taken the idea of the tablet forward in a sensible way. The Pixel Tablet comes with a docking station, which means the device has a permanent place in the living room – and can serve as a control center for the smart home if desired.
Trailer shows how the Pixel tablet becomes a smart home center thanks to the stand
A look into the (possible) future
My guess is: We will also see steps in this direction from Apple in the coming years. I hope that the developer from Cupertino will reorientate its iPads accordingly in the future. Because the constant urge to turn the Apple tablet more and more into a productivity machine seems to me to be a fool’s errand.
Instead, offering a cheap (by Apple standards) alternative that allows you to control your own four walls and offers simple entertainment on the couch at home seems so much more sensible to me.
And if this is then integrated into Apple’s own software cosmos, as is typical for Apple, you have a unique selling point that sets the iPads apart from other tablets – and thus justifies the usual Apple surcharge.
The best tablets you can get for less than 600 euros
how do you see it? Do you agree that Apple’s attempt to develop the iPad into a full-fledged laptop alternative is destined to fail? Or is it me who is wrong in my opinion because I don’t sufficiently appreciate one of the tablet’s unique strengths? Where will the tablet as a device develop in the future? I look forward to your assessments and opinions in the comments!