Black Friday bargains prompt consumers to self-gift iPad Air

51% week-over-week jump in new iPad Air tablets recognized by mobile analytics firm

Aggressive discounting by Apple and its biggest retail partners last week resulted in a surge of new iPad Air tablets going online.

According to Boston-based Localytics, a mobile analytics and marketing firm, 51% more iPad Air tablets accessed its clients' apps over the Black Friday weekend than during the same period seven days before.

Dave Hoch, a business analyst at Localytics, credited the jump in iPad Air detections to discounts and bundled gift cards that Apple and others used to drive purchases on the U.S. holiday season sales kick-off. "Combined with a smaller base of iPad Air devices and the novelty of the iPad Air, [this] resulted in the iPad Air dominating on Black Friday weekend," Hoch wrote on his company's blog today.

The device with the second-largest increase in new devices was Apple's first-generation iPad Mini, the 2012 7.9-in. tablet that also received gift card support. According to Localytics, its app network saw a 26% increase in new Minis compared to the week before.

That increase in iPad Mini devices was even more impressive, since the Mini has been available for more than a year. With its much larger installed base, each percentage point of increase would have required considerably more units than the relatively new iPad Air.

On Friday, Nov. 29, Apple ran its annual Black Friday sale, which included a $75 Apple Store gift card with the purchase of an iPad Air, and a $50 card with the original iPad Mini. Those deals competed with -- but did not match -- ones at other retailers. Target, for example, reduced the price of the 16GB iPad Air to $479 and offered a $100 card, Best Buy discounted the Air to $449 and threw in a $75 gift card with the Mini, and Walmart dangled a $100 gift card in front of iPad Mini buyers.

The discounts resulted in effective prices as low as $379 for an iPad Air and $199 for an iPad Mini.

As Hoch noted, Apple recently introduced the iPad Air: It unveiled the lighter, thinner version of its iconic tablet on Oct. 22 and began selling the device on Nov. 1. The first-generation iPad Mini received a $30 price cut on Oct. 22, the same day Apple rolled out a Retina-equipped model.

That more expensive Mini -- Apple raised the price by 21% to $399 -- increased its Localytics presence by 17%.

And Localytics probably exposed just a portion of the devices, including the iPad Air, that were purchased last week.

"Last year, we saw aggregate usage figures provide much more meaningful data following the Christmas holiday, as the majority of devices purchased over the [Black Friday] weekend are likely to be given as gifts at Christmas," said Andrew Waber, a spokesman for Chitika, a Westborough, Mass. mobile ad network.

Unless consumers preemptively tried their new iPad Airs before wrapping them as gifts, the increases seen by Localytics most likely represented tablets bought by customers inspired to "self-gift" because of the Black Friday bargains.

Localytics chart
An analytics firm's count of Apple's iPad Air tablet jumped 51% after the Black Friday sales weekend. (Image: Localytics.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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