The iPad Pro might be Apple’s “Back to School” Dark Horse

on July 6, 2016
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The “Back to School” season in the US always offers a good boost to Apple’s sales. Traditionally, Apple launches its Back to School promotions in June or early July and, while 2015 was a bit of an exception with a later date, this year we went back to tradition as the details were shared at the start of June. As always, Apple’s promotions will run in their stores and online.

Apple’s 2015 Back to School Promotion Felt Like an Odd One Out

In 2015, Apple’s Back to School promotion was slightly more restricted than in pervious years. It offered one pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones (via an instant credit in the amount of $199.95 that would be applied to your order) or one pair of Beats Solo2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones (also with an instant credit of $199.95 that would be applied to your order). The Qualified Education Individual would be responsible for paying the remaining balance ($100), following the application of the instant credit to the purchase price. Eligible products were iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, and the Mac Pro. The iPhone and the iPad were excluded from the promotion in 2015, also a departure from previous years.

While these omissions seemed odd at first, it is worth reminding ourselves of where Apple was in the summer of 2015. iPhone sales reached 61.2 million units in the second quarter of 2015, a healthy increase over the 43.7 million iPhones sold in 2014. iPad sales had started to decrease with volumes of 12.6 million, down from the 16 million of the second quarter of 2015. But the decline was not yet a real cause of concern.

Apple’s 2016 Back to School reflects the company’s needs

Apple enters Back to School 2016 in a very different market dynamic and the promotions reflect that. In the second quarter of 2016, Apple experienced a ten million unit drop year over year in iPhone sales, down to 51.2 million. iPad sales were down to 10.2 million units. So, iPhone and iPads are back on the list of qualifying devices for the Back to School promotion. Students purchasing an iPhone 6 and 6s or an iPad Pro will get a pair of Beats Powerbeats 2 wireless headphones worth $200. Students investing in iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will get a set of Beats Solo 2 wireless headphones worth $300.

Apple also offers special financing with the Barclaycard Visa.

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WWDC 2016 did not bring a new MacBook Pro so what now?

Despite the rumors leading up to WWDC, Apple did not launch a new MacBook Pro which means Apple has no new product for Back to School. Of course, that was enough to jumpstart yet another “Apple is doomed” line of commentary.

Considering that “Back to School” makes for a more pragmatic crowd of buyers, I personally doubt the new MacBook Pro would have been the star performer. The Pro line is always very aspirational and the price tag usually reflects that, making it more a purchase for the holiday season than Back to School.

If the Beats headsets are not enough of an incentive for buyers, there were enough promotions for July 4th to make the existing MacBook Pro and Air worth looking at, as prices drop by as much as $300 across authorized resellers.

iPad Pro Plus Microsoft Office can satisfy both students and parents

If you do what I do (namely, pretend to know about technology), you have pretty much everybody who knows what you do ask you what they should buy. When it comes to Back to School in the past few years, the question has often been: MacBook Air or iPad? The kids want the iPad and the parents want the MacBook, because college should be about work not play! Needless to say, it is not for me to debunk that theory.

On the tech front though, what parents really mean is that students need Microsoft Word and a keyboard. I feel I can safely say there is no longer a choice to be made between work and play if you use an iPad Pro with Office 365. The results of a recent study we conducted at Creative Strategies show college students clearly prefer to use Word for work that does not require collaboration where Google Docs reigns supreme. The full access a 365 Office subscription offers on all iPads allows for that solo work to be done with the preferred tool. And the iPad Pro plus a keyboard combination gives you the same ease of use a MacBook Air gives you with the added bonus of a touch screen.

Of course, if you are in the market for a PC and not a Mac, there are going to be cheaper options that already come with Office 365 as vendors try and clear their inventory during Back to School to prep for the Windows Anniversary Edition devices to hit later in the year. But, if you want to stay in the Apple camp, I think the two iPad Pro models have a role to play for this year’s Back to school buyer.