A new report from IDC indicates a marked slowdown in tablet adoption in recent months. Once predicted to be a long-term prospect for continued growth, worldwide tablet shipments recorded a decline for the second consecutive quarter during the first three months of 2015.
The figures - which cover tablets and 2-in-1 devices - show overall shipments fell to 47.1 million in Q1 - a 5.9% decline from the same quarter in 2014. Forecasters across the mobile tech industry have tempered their previous predictions accordingly. But what are we to conclude from the tablet downturn?
One of the main reasons tablets don’t perform as well as smartphones is a much slower ‘refresh rate’ - that is, the amount of time customers hold onto their existing device before upgrading. It’s common to keep using the same tablet for more than three years, and in countries like the United States - where more than 50% of households own a tablet - the decline in sales is particularly keenly felt.
Tablets also fare worse than smartphones in the necessity stakes: smartphones are considered must-have items, while tablets are still regarded as luxury items. Factor in the availability of low-cost, high-performance smartphones that do everything tablets can and more, and it’s not surprising the iPad isn’t having a late surge in popularity.
Speaking of Apple, their introduction of larger displays has undoubtedly dealt a further blow to the tablet market. The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5 inch display; smaller tablets have 7 inch displays. There aren’t too many apps that would justify buying a tablet for the sake of an extra inch and a half. Larger smartphone displays have eaten into tablet sales.
It’s not all bad news for the large-display market, however. Cellular-enabled tablets are performing better than their non-cellular counterparts, so mobile operators are doing well from the market. Cellular devices are positioning the tablet as a genuine mobile solution, rather than a stay-at-home tool. If larger display smartphones continue to find a niche, it’s not inconceivable that tablets with cellular capabilities could meet them in the middle.