Apple iPad sales are up year on year for the first time since 2014

Key Points
  • Apple's iPad sales are up year-on-year for the first time since 2014.
  • Shipments may have been driven by a new lower-priced iPad.
Apple earnings showed dip in China: Recode's Ed Lee

reported its fiscal third quarter 2017 results on Tuesday afternoon — and while all eyes were on iPhone sales and other figures, iPad shipments stuck out.

Apple shipped 11.4 million iPads during the quarter, up from the 9.95 million iPads it shipped during the year-ago quarter. This is the first time since 2014 that Apple has managed to increase iPad sales year-over-year on a quarterly basis.

Since the first quarter of 2014, Apple's iPad sales have continued to drop off year-over-year. During the third quarter of 2014, for example, Apple's iPad shipments sunk to 13.28 million from 14.62 during fiscal Q3 2013. They fell again in Q3 2015 to 10.93 million units and again in Q3 2016 to 9.95 million units. Now we're back at a healthy 11.4 million units.

Has Apple finally fixed its iPad problem?

Perhaps. Segmentation seems to be working.

Apple earnings, revenues beat

In Apple's earnings report, CEO Tim Cook said that "iPad was strong" in China, echoing similar remarks from earlier quarters. Cook also said there's demand for the iPad Pro in the enterprise and a strong push for iPads in education.

Apple also introduced a new iPad that costs just $329 at the entry level, which makes the device more appealing to folks who didn't want to spend much more on a tablet. It also has a fresh duo of iPad Pro units that may help it continue this momentum as it moves toward the holidays.

"If you look at iPad, iPad was up 15% year on year," CEO Tim Cook told CNBC. "The approach we've had from a product point of view, of bifurcating iPad and iPad Pro, is really resonating with our users. The iPad launch that we did at the end of March and the iPad Pro announcement from June both were received extremely well and gave us the best compare on iPad that we've in many many quarters."

The fiscal fourth quarter is typically Apple's weak point for iPad sales. After that, there will be a better indication if there's been a true reversal.

Additional reporting by CNBC's Josh Lipton.

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