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The iPad’s first five years, in five charts

In this file photo taken April 3, 2010, Andres Schobel holds up two iPads as one of the first customers to buy iPads on the first day of Apple iPad sales at an Apple Store in San Francisco.
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
One of the first iPad buyers in San Francisco.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Apple’s iPad went on sale for the first time five years ago today. Launched by Steve Jobs as a “magical and revolutionary” tablet, the iPad has been an overall huge success for Apple. Here is its story until now, told in five charts.

A fast hit—with a dramatic slowdown

The iPad sold almost 20 million units in its first year and almost 50 million in its second. But growth slowed, and by mid-2013, the iPad business was already starting to shrink.

The tablet market simply hasn’t lived up to expectations, and now Apple is trying to figure out new uses for them—including a business-apps partnership with IBM. But it is still selling 60 million a year for almost $30 billion in revenue.

Apple’s fastest product to 250 million shipments

In almost five years’ worth of reported figures, Apple has shipped almost 260 million iPads. In the same length of time after launch, cumulative iPhone shipments reached almost 220 million and iPod shipments less than 70 million. (Of course, without the iPod, there might have never been an iPhone or iPad.)

Cheaper—and lighter—by the year

The cheaper and smaller iPad mini, launched in 2012, and Apple’s habit of selling older iPad models for less money, has driven down its average selling price over the years.

Coincidentally, the iPad’s weight—not including the iPad mini—has also declined at a nearly identical pace.

About that ‘post-PC revolution’…

In 2011, after becoming Apple CEO, Tim Cook predicted that the tablet market would eventually become larger than the PC market. That sounded bold but plausible at the time, and as recently as last year, it seemed imminent. But the growth of the tablet market has slipped, and the PC industry has rallied.

Back in 2012, Gartner predicted that 370 million tablets would be sold in 2016. Its most recent forecast for that year is for 258 million. (Note how tablet growth slowed around 2013 as larger smartphones—and the unfortunately named “phablets”—started becoming popular.)

Here’s a bonus chart that shows how the iPad has lifted Apple. If you add Mac and iPad shipments together, Apple is the largest personal “computer” company in the world, beating Lenovo last year by about 13 million devices, according to IDC’s PC and tablet industry estimates.

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