Apple’s software update may help fuel iPad market growth in 2018

Combined with the iPad Pro, the technology giant’s new iOS 11 platform is expected to spur tablet replacements with its improved productivity features

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 5:26pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 10:13pm

The global replacement cycle for iPads could pick up steam over the next few quarters as iOS 11, the latest update of Apple’s mobile operating system, becomes widely available later this month.

That development would likely anchor a forecast return to growth for the worldwide tablet market next year, when Apple and mainland Chinese brands led by Huawei Technologies are predicted to strengthen their shipment volumes.

“The new iOS 11 would be an important update to iPad Pro, as the new features will make it more of a personal computer-like device,” said Peggy Cheung, the research manager at IDC Asia-Pacific.

Apple’s iPad Pro line is part of the so-called detachable tablet market segment, referring to tablets specifically designed for use with smart, detachable keyboards. The current iPad Pro line includes versions with 12.9-inch and 10.5-inch displays.

“The iOS update will make iPad Pro a more favourable option when consumers want to upgrade their tablets for both mobility and light productivity purposes,” Cheung said.

Apple previewed iOS 11 early in June, when the company announced advanced multi-tasking features and support for augmented reality that lets mobile applications place virtual content on top of real-world scenes.

The same mobile operating system will power the Apple’s latest iPhone models, which are anticipated to be unveiled next week in the United States.

“With hundreds of millions of people actively using the iPhone and iPad today, iOS will become the world’s biggest augmented reality platform as soon as iOS 11 ships,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, in a conference call with analysts in early August.

Sales of iPads helped bolster Apple’s financial results for the quarter through June, when the company posted revenue of US$45.4 billion. That included tablet sales of 11.4 million units, up from 9.9 million units in the same period last year.

The company said the iPad posted double-digit growth rates in the June quarter in key markets such as the US, Japan, Germany, France and greater China.

The latest 10.5-inch display iPad Pro model in the market features Apple’s new A10X Fusion chip that offers fast graphics performance and enables 10-hour battery life on a full charge.

It also features a 12-megapixel rear camera and 7MP front camera, four-speaker audio, updated high-definition display and the Smart Keyboard that doubles as an iPad cover.

Combined with the upcoming iOS 11, the iPad Pro will have an all-new Dock; a Files app that brings all files together; support for drag and drop, redesigned multi-tasking; and more support for the input device called Apple Pencil.

IDC’s Cheung, however, said the iOS 11-powered iPads are not expected to significantly impact the market for traditional personal computers.

Research firm IDC has projected worldwide tablet shipments to rebound with single-digit growth next year as detachable tablets gain ground. As of June 30, global tablet shipments have declined for 11 consecutive quarters.

Total tablet shipments worldwide is forecast to reach 163 million units this year, while the volume in China is estimated to hit 21 million units in the same period, according to IDC.

Apple has remained the world’s largest supplier of tablets since company co-founder Steve Jobs launched the original iPad in early 2010 in the US.

The next largest tablet brands by unit shipments in the second quarter were Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technologies, and Lenovo Group, according to IDC. Cheung said Huawei could further narrow the gap with Samsung because of its competitive marketing and prices.

The biggest tablet brands behind Apple in China during the same period were Huawei, Lenovo, Teclast and Cube.

Founded in 1999, Teclast is a brand owned by consumer electronics company Guangzhou Shangke Information Technology. Cube tablets are made by Shenzhen Alldo Cube Technology and Science Company, a domestic electronics firm established in 1995.