The tablet sector recently suffered its first drop, according to tech consultancy Canalys – down 12% over the final three months of 2014 compared with the same period the previous year.
Apple – the market leader – sold 15% fewer iPads over 2014 as a whole compared with 2013.
Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) will attempt to reinvigorate interest next week – a Sony leak indicates its will unveil a model with “industry-leading battery performance”.
But research house Gartner is now saying the sector’s growth will be limited to 259 million sales next year, meaning PCs will continue to be more popular.
Worldwide tablet sales :
- 2010: 17.6 million
- 2011: 59.8 million
- 2012: 124.8 million
- 2013: 216.3 million
- 2014: 216.1 million
- 2015: 233.4 million (forecast)
- 2016: 259.0 million (forecast)
Apple’s iPads are the bestselling brand. Between 3 April 2010, when the original went on sale, and 27 December 2014, the end of the Apple’s last financial quarter, the US company sold:
- 258 million iPads
- more than 615 million iPhones
Cheap “brand X” tablets – such as Tesco’s Hudl – have proved popular. Combine the various companies together, and they outsell their better known competitors. In 2014, their respective market shares were:
- generic tablets – 29%
- Apple – 26%
- Samsung – 17%
Despite being outsold by phones, tablets punch above their weight when it comes to internet shopping. A study of purchases made in the UK indicates that over 2014 the two classes of categories generated:
- tablets – £9.32bn sales
- smartphones – £4.67bn sales
Furthermore, many of the things that drive consumers to buy new phones – better cameras, built-in footstep trackers, fingerprint sensors, touch-and-pay facilities and extended battery life – don’t have the same appeal if offered on tablets, since the bigger devices are less likely to be used outdoors.
And despite the efforts of Microsoft, Apple and Google to convince us that their latest models can be used to make complex spreadsheets, videos, music and more, many want to use them to consume media rather than create it.
“If you just want to read stuff and watch Netflix on your tablet at home, some of the early tablets are just as good as the latest devices,” says Stuart Miles, founder of the gadget review site Pocket-lint.
“If you are intrigued by a tablet, you’ve probably already bought one, so there really needs to be a paradigm shift, a change in what it offers you, to convince you to upgrade.”
That’s not to say innovation is limited to making tablets thinner.
Lenovo recently unveiled the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, which features a built-in projector and subwoofer.
The pitch is that this could be useful for presentations and letting groups watch movies together, although reviewers suggest the low resolution and brightness of the projector limits its appeal.
Perhaps more intriguing is the fact that the Yoga’s screen is 13.3in (33.8cm) – much bigger than the norm.
Microsoft has also gone large with its 12in (30.5cm) Windows-powered Surface Pro 3, Samsung has introduced a 12.2in (31cm) tablet and there are rumours Apple is working on a similarly proportioned iPad.