After the frenzy surrounding the release of the iPhone 5S and the 5C, we all assumed that future Apple launch dates would be a fixture on everybody's calendars. But the release of the iPad Air Friday proved us wrong, making awkward history as the company's quietest launch day ever. Sure, lines in Tokyo were lengthy — we've written before about how Apple is working hard to make headway in the lucrative Asian market— other typical Apple capitals (Appitals?) were much less excited. In London, the iPad Air debut at the city's two flagship stores was greeted by very few people: Just under 100 at both Regents Street and Covent Garden, according to observers and an employee who "wasn't expecting much today, to be honest."
This is a huge 180 from normal launch days for Apple. Why are people turning out so low for a lighter, sleeker, faster tablet CNET described as the "best full-size consumer tablet on the market"?
Maybe it's because there's not a whole lot that's special about this tablet: The Air tablet has a new A7 processing chip at its core, but it's the same one found in the iPhone 5. And buying a tablet with the same processing power as a mobile isn't really something to queue for days about, realistically. Neither is a lighter version of an already-light tablet.
Furthermore, the iPad Air was criticized for its "repairability," a trait that techies prize: the iFixit blog gave the Air just 2 out of 10 on the "teardown" scale, saying that if anything was taken apart, the glass could be damaged. Furthermore, if the battery's dead, so is the tablet, pretty much: The company said that it involved "the most difficult battery removal procedure" it's seen yet from Apple.
It's also been pretty well-publicized that there are plenty of the tablet Airs to go around, meaning that a queue isn't really necessary to get the goods — unlike, for example, the iPhone 5S, which took some customers weeks and even months to obtain.
There's also two timing issues: First, the iPad Mini with Retina display launches later in November, and customers could be waiting for that (Still, they could be in for a disappointment: Mini's launch might be put off until spring because of a lack of supplies).
Secondly, it's the holidays. Customers might be holding off on expensive gadget purchases until it's closer to Hanukkah — which begins Nov. 27, right around the anticipated Mini launch — or Christmas. There's no real reason to buy the Air now and hide it under the bed for two months, especially when it's a purchase that doesn't go too well with recession-shrunk budgets: The Air tablet starts at $499 and goes up to $799 for the all-out version. And if you want cellular models with internet that's not WiFi-dependant, add another $130 on to that tag.
All in all, it's not a huge game-changer for Apple. nor its fans — as admitted by the (bored) Covent Garden employee and tech writers. This could be quite the problem for Apple: Tablets are slowly creeping up on computers for digital-device market share, a lot of different technology companies are producing decent competitors to the iPad Air, and all this competition is forcing Apple out of its stronghold on the tablet market.
This year's third quarter had Apple at around 30 percent of global tablet shipments, down 10 percent from the same time last year — and Samsung's picking up most of what Apple lost, with an eight percent increase during the third quarter. However, if the Mini launch goes better (well, much better) than today's, it might give Apple a much-needed boost.
Friday's turnout is certainly a long way from this, eh, Apple?