iPad just had a huge quarter – so what happens now?

All eyes may be on the iPhone 8 and its anticipated September launch, but iPad just had its best quarter sales-wise in a long time.

And not just a tiny uptick: Apple sold 11.4 million iPads in Q3, the three months ending July 1. CEO Tim Cook called these "very positive results" on the company's earnings call.

A 15% surprising increase from the same quarter last year.

This figure pales in comparison to the 41 million iPhones also sold in the quarter, but it's a surprising 15% increase from the same quarter last year (when 9.9 million were iPads sold) and a 28% increase from the quarter before (8.9 million iPads sold). iPad also achieved its highest market share in over four years, Cook said.

To put an even finer point on it, CNBC notes this is the first time iPad has had sales growth year-over-year since 2014.

For a device that's struggled through perpetually slumping sales, Q3 was a big win for iPad, and a sign the slate isn't ready to go quietly into the night just yet.  

Changing with the times?

What's interesting about Apple's latest iPad results is that while unit sales grew by double-digits, revenue from iPad only rose by 2% year-over-year.

Though Apple didn't break out figures for specific models, this could mean customers bought more less-expensive iPads rather than scrambled to scoop up to the newer, pricier models, as TechCrunch suggests. 

Apple released two iPad Pro tablets in June, the all-new iPad Pro 10.5 and an updated iPad Pro 12.9. Those slates start at $649 / £619 / AU$979 and $799 / £769 / $AU1,199, respectively.

Apple's 9.7-inch iPad and iPad mini 4, meanwhile, start at $309 / £339 / AU$469 and $399 / £419 / AU$579, respectively. 

With the iPad family split by a fairly sharp divide between high and low end, it will be intriguing to see how Apple proceeds with the tablet in the months and years to come.

The most likely course is for Apple to keep the iPad lineup as-is for the foreseeable future, at least until sales slip again. The tech giant is arguably hitting on the right price points and sizes to meet customer needs with its current lineup, though over time it could weed out under-performing tablets to focus on its top sellers. 

Education is an area of huge importance for iPad, and Cook said on the call that US education sales for iPad were up 32% year-on-year. 

Apple sells iPad and other devices at special rates to schools – likely another factor in slight revenue jump – but if iPad extends its presence in the classroom, it only means more units sold. And while we doubt Apple will launch an education-only tablet anytime soon, it's not out of the question.

Finally, the iPad lineup was only recently refreshed, so we probably have a year or more before new models hit the market. However, if Apple continues to see sales tick upward on the backs of less expensive iPads, it could make sense to do a price-slash across the board. 

We won't put our money on this last option as Apple isn't known for operating on razor-thin margins, yet it's undeniable the iPad sales story just went in a sharp new direction. Call it a plot twist, but it looks like iPad may be on its way to a comeback.

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