Never has a device exploded onto the market quite like the digital tablet. While the iPhone has had 7 years to expand its market presence, the iPad has captured a third of Apple’s net sales in less than 3, reshaping the spectrum of everyday electronics. The sudden glut caused the accessory market to explode as a result, producing a wide variety of gadgets that range from genius to comical. With such an assortment of accessories on the market, it can be hard for new inventors to innovate in this space, especially without stepping into the realm of the superfluous. So how is an Apple enthusiast to make a splash in such a large pool? Simply put, by taking a step back to examine the facts. To offer a little framework, here is a breakdown of the iPad tablets in Apple’s current lineup, along with an overview of their accessory markets.
iPad 2, iPad 3, and iPad with Retina Display
While the iPad with Retina Display may be the latest tablet in Apple’s repertoire, both the iPad 2 and the iPad 3 have a strong enough presence to merit a spot in the conversation. Since the basic form factor of these tablets hasn’t changed since 2010, their joint ipad accessory market has had a while to mature, so the wisest approach for a prospective inventor is to reject the status quo. Protective cases, docks, kickstands and reading stands have been sold and refined for years now, so your best bet at finding innovation is to ignore the product’s core use cases entirely: web-browsing in bed, typing, readin on the train, etc. This isn’t to say that new products can’t emerge in this space, but your concept will be competing with a host of major product companies, who have had years to develop their product lines. That’s quite a tall order.
Instead, try to focus your attention on more specific applications, which may not have been touched by mass market brands. Your own areas of expertise are a great place to start: if you love to cook, examine uses for the iPad while you’re in the kitchen; if you’re a frequent flyer, consider how you could improve it for travel. Assess the ideal uses and features of a tablet in that setting (splashproof in the kitchen, shatterproof while hiking, etc.), then examine the current market to see what’s out there, and identify those problems that have still not been addressed. Quirky’s Roadshow and Prep Step (above) are two products that do this quite well, despite being relatively low tech. Each combines a clever set of features to optimize the iPad for a certain setting, resulting in a unique product with an innovative function. You can’t define “invention” much better than that.
In contrast to the flagship line of iPads, the iPad Mini is relatively new to the scene, having been released in late 2012. As a result, its accessory market such as HP Pavilion DV7-6153NR (Black Frame) Keyboard is somewhat less developed, with more room for products that target a mass market audience. You can read this past article for a more in-depth look at designing for the Mini, but the most important thing to remember is to target the form factor. Don’t think of the Mini as a counterpart to the Kindle Fire or Nexus, because you’re in Apple’s marketplace now. Instead, think of it as a smaller, thinner, lighter iPad, and play to these advantages. Obviously, its reduced size makes it easier to transport and hold, but it also makes it easier for the Mini to interface with other objects, and serve roles that were once exclusive to smart phones. For example, mounting an original iPad on a dashboard would be nigh on ludicrous, but a Mini’s smaller size makes it far less intrusive. To sum things up? Don’t constrain yourself by thinking of this as an iPad. Consider it an entirely new device, and clever new applications will start popping up like daisies.