Besides our smartphones, one of the most fascinating facets of technology has been the tablet device. Thanks to their unique blend of both power and portability, tablets give users more freedom and capability than smartphones and computers can offer. This is especially true when it comes to the size of their comparatively larger but much more portable displays. But are we now seeing the decline of the tablet device technology category?
In 2010 Apple released its first-generation iPad, which was the first tablet to achieve widespread mass-market popularity. In the years that followed, the market share for tablets increased. Many tech giants have developed their own competitors for the iPad, creating stiff competition for one another and offering consumers a more extensive choice.
However, statistics have shown that there has been a decline in tablet sales over the past few years. According to IDC, the worldwide tablet market has declined by 13.5%. This was during the second quarter of 2018. Global shipments of tablets have also declined to 33million – a decrease of 5 million.
“Slate tablets” apparently accounted for the majority of the market share with 28.4 million units and have fallen from the previous year, indicating a drastic drop. “Detachable tablets” have also declined over the quarter. This has been due to high-profile product launches and lack of updates to the products in 2018.
Also, to follow that up, the graph above provided by Statcounter demonstrates how stagnant the tablet market has been between June 2018 and June 2019. From the chart, it is clear to see that of the three categories of computing; tablets, mobile phones and computers, tablets are the least favourite amongst consumers.
Percentage-wise we can also see from the graph that desktop computers and smartphones are miles ahead of tablets and that tablets in comparison hold a meagre market share. It’s hard to imagine the market share differences between these technologies until it is visually demonstrated. This clearly shows the limited appeal of the tablet category to consumers compared to other tech on the market.
Industry experts believe that a key reason behind the steady decline of tablets stems from significant improvements in smartphone technology. The focus has been on the smartphone for a while now. Tech giants like Samsung have built tablet-like phones which offer the best of both worlds making tablets obsolete. The Samsung Note, a more significant piece of technology which is halfway between a phone and a tablet known as a “phablet”, has edged its way into the market and created a wedge. Consumers are now able to carry out tablet functionalities on a phone-like device, making it more agile, portable and appealing.
On a consumer level, another reason tablets could potentially have gone out of fashion is because, in the beginning, they were built to last. It is thought that when the first generation iPads and tablets made it to the market, they were the best pieces of technology that were produced by the tech companies. For this reason, their functionalities were less reliant on other pieces of technology and worked well independently. Although, it could be argued that updates to newer tech standards, operating system updates and app restrictions have made consumers feel like they need to purchase new technology.
Although it may seem like doom and gloom for the tablet market, figures indicate that although tablets sales have fallen drastically, there is still a market for it. Companies such as Apple and Huawei are two companies that show a slight indication of growth in that sector.
As you can see from the statistics provided below, Huawei is leading the market compared to Apple by a 7% lead. However, Apple still comes out on top when comparing the amount of total shipment, which is over 11 million. This figure makes Apple tablets a third of all tablets in the market to be shipped when compared to all major companies.
Technology devices which change the way we work and live always risk the chances of becoming unpopular. For example, the different amount of gaming devices that Nintendo has brought out over the years indicates that tech organisations need to be continuously inventing the wheel. Some technology sticks around and gets better, whereas other technology fades away, eventually exiting the market.
Although tablets are quite useful and functional, newer smarter technology will no doubt take over at some point and further worsen market share. Be it from new smartphone concepts such as folding displays, VR/AR glasses or the rapid increase in wearable technology and its seamless pairing with smartphones. These are all significant threats to tablets and their future sales and viability as a platform.
Who knows, we may end up not even needing screens, with our technology device displays being projected directly onto the retinas of our eyes, just like in many science fiction movies and TV shows have shown us. It wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve seen real-life products imitating art, just think about Star Trek: The Original Series communicators being very similar to the early flip-style mobile phones.
Yasmita is a journalist who has been covering various topics over her career but has a greater focus on Technology, Health and Business. She has been writing for a number of years and has previously worked for the NHS, pharmaceutical tech and consumer tech magazines.