Tablet Industry Continues Steady Decline

by Matt Klassen on May 7, 2015

While tablets have not yet gone the way of the Dodo bird, the 8-track or the BetaMax player, for the second quarter in a row the worldwide tablet industry has seen a noticeable decline, prompting many to ask if such handheld computing devices have reached their saturation point, and if they’ll stick around much longer.

According to a recently released report from IDC, worldwide tablet shipments declined year-over-year for a second consecutive quarter, with Q1 2015 reporting almost a six percent decline in unit shipments compared to Q1 2014. While certainly not doom and gloom, the drop is noticeable and, after two quarters, sustained, leading many to believe that unless the tablet is upgraded or altered in some significant way, that these trends will continue unabated.

In fact, despite the fact that market research over the last several years did seem to confirm analyst’s expectations that the tablet would become the default computing form factor, 2015 has, for the first time, produced quarterly results that have some thinking that tablets may in fact be nothing more than a passing fad.

“The market slowdown that we witnessed last quarter is continuing to impact the tablet segment, but we see some growth areas that are starting to materialize,” said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director of IDC’s tablets tracker. “Cellular-enabled tablets are outgrowing the rest of the market, providing an additional revenue stream for OEMs and mobile operators. In addition to driving higher usage than Wi-Fi only tablets, cellular-enabled tablets also help position the segment as true mobile solutions rather than stay-at-home devices.”

As expected, Apple continued to lead the tablet market in Q1 2015, despite the fact the Cupertino Company has seen five successive quarters of decline. As Jason Hahn of Digital Trends explains, “In the first quarter, [Apple] the most valuable brand in the world shipped 12.6 million units of its iPad tablets, good for 26.8 percent of the market. However, this figure is 22.9 percent smaller than the 16.4 million shipments in the same quarter last year.”

Like the previous quarter, along with Apple the likes of Samsung and ASUS saw continued declines as well, while lesser lights in the tablet race Lenovo and LG both saw strong gains due to low cost products and strong relationships with global telecom providers.

That’s not to say that tablets aren’t popular, in fact far from it. The problem with the tablet market is that it has very low turnover and the market is almost completely saturated; people buy a tablet and hold on to it for a long time and everyone who wants a tablet, has a tablet.

All that to say, tablets are in decline, whether the industry can pull out of this slump depends completely on whether the industry can convince people that a new tablet is something they need to spend their money on, but given the recent product upgrades we’ve seen, that seems unlikely to happen.

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