Tim Cook teases 'exciting things' ahead for the tumbling iPad

Keeping optimism alive

The single blemish in an otherwise tremendous quarter for Apple, one that saw iPhone sales rebounding after a yearlong slump, was iPad. 

Unit sales were down 19% from the same time last year, totaling just over 13 million iPads moved in Q1 2017. Though sales were up from the quarter previous (Q1 covers the holiday season), this continues a general trend of tumbling iPad sales, something Apple can't seem to shake.

But despite declining numbers, Apple CEO Tim Cook isn't giving up on the slate. In fact, Cook said he is "very bullish on iPad," and has teased innovations yet to come.

"We've got some exciting things coming on iPad," he said during the company's earnings call today. "I still feel very optimistic about where we can take the product."

Inventory issues and component shortages have led to less-than-optimal iPad sales - problems Cook said won't be resolved in the current quarter, either - but he sees good days ahead. He cited industry-leading customer satisfaction rates and figures that suggest iPad is nowhere near market saturation as reasons for his optimism on the device. 

Cook's "exciting things" line is one he's used before to hype a product without giving up details, but it's noteworthy he said anything this positive about iPad at all, let alone effuse he's "very bullish" on the product. 

The iPad Pro 9.7 is Apple's most recent slate, and it launched nearly a year ago. Since then, the company has focused its energy on iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Apple Watch, MacBook Pro and even AirPods, leaving iPad to wither on the vine a bit. In the meantime, devices like the Surface Pro 4 and Chromebooks have moved in on iPad's turf. 

So, what exciting innovations might Cook be talking about, the stuff that will help the iPad regain some ground? One rumor suggests the iPad Pro 2 will let you stick your Apple Pencil to the tablet. Right - not amazing, but it's something!

The updated tablet - expected no earlier than March - may also feature a slimmer design, improved screen, more power and increased storage. None of these are extremely "exciting", but refining the experience, plus adding one or two really neat features, could be just enough to push iPads back into positive sales territory. That, or dropping the price, but this doesn't seem like a step Apple is ready to take just yet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle is TechRadar's Senior News Editor, based in the Bay Area. Covering every corner of the industry, Michelle aims to bring you the most useful and entertaining bits about the gadgets you love. Her most exhilarating moment as a tech journalist so far is riding in a self-driving car. Got a tip? Drop her a line!