amazon fire tablet six pack

It’s no secret that tablets aren’t selling quite as well as they once did. Compared with last year, the worldwide tablet market declined 7% in the last quarter, and 3.9% the quarter before that, according to IDC. It looks as though tablets may have peeked around the end of 2013.

As sales dwindle, we can see two very clear strategies emerging. Manufacturers are slashing prices further and further, or they’re going the other way and offering seriously premium, expensive devices. These opposing approaches are nicely highlighted by the most recent releases from tech giants Apple and Amazon.

Apple asks for more

The new iPad Pro starts at $800, but you’ll pay over a grand ($1,079 to be exact) if you want the 128GB with 4G version. That’s enough to snag a really decent laptop or a desktop computer, both of which are going to be superior to a tablet in most respects, apart from portability.

apple ipad pro

You can buy a nice laptop for the price of the new iPad Pro, keyboard not included

If anyone else did it, they’d be dismissed as mad. In fact, when Microsoft first hit this kind of pricing with the Surface Pro it was roundly criticized. No one has had any real success with bigger tablets yet. Maybe the Pro 3, with its 12-inch display has come closest so far, but it’s taken Microsoft a few attempts to convince people.

microsoft surface pro

Microsoft has made inroads with its Surface Pro line, but it hasn’t been easy

The iPad Pro stretches things a little further, with a 12.9-inch display, but both of these devices are being sold as laptop replacements. The “Pro” tag speaks to their business credentials, where there’s plenty of demand for that sweet spot combo of power and portability. If you can’t justify a bigger screen that does some of the stuff your phone already does, but nothing it can’t, then perhaps you’ll spring for one that does what your laptop can do as well.

Are they going to seep into the wider mass market? Only time will tell. But if they do, it will surely be by cannibalizing sales of ultra-books and other laptops.

Amazon practically gives it away

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Amazon offering the entry-level Fire tablet for $50. This 7-inch forked Android device is hardly the belle of the ball, but damn it’s cheap. You can even buy a six pack and you’ll get one of them free. That’s $250 for six Fire tablets. You could buy 25 of them for less than the top end iPad Pro.

amazon fire tablet

The key selling point is obvious

Amazon doesn’t really care about making money on the hardware because it has a huge content ecosystem. The Fire tablet range are really designed to be windows to Amazon’s world, where it wants to tempt you into a Prime membership, and get you buying books through Kindle. As it adds in music and other content sources, the prospect for a typical family is actually really compelling. You get quite a lot for your money.

Why aren’t people buying tablets?

We know that people are still using tablets, they just aren’t buying them as often. So, why have tablet sales fallen off? A number of different reasons have been thrown up, but there’s no real consensus.

This argument that we don’t need tablets anymore because our phones are getting bigger sounds really convincing, but it also seems at odds with some of the evidence. If you take a look at this Flurry data, small tablets seem to be holding their own; it’s full-size tablets that are falling away. You’d think the small tablet category would be the most impacted by the rise of phablets.

flurry form factors

Phablets have been taking away market share from medium sized phones, not tablets

Could it be because tablets continue to receive updates and run adequately well for longer? Anecdotally, my Nexus 7 (2013) is still going strong after more than two years, and it has the latest version of Android. Why bother buying a new tablet if the old one still works just as well? New tablets also (mostly) haven’t ushered in sexy new designs or a raft of new features. At least, not in the same way that new smartphones have. Though, it’s interesting to note that Apple’s only offering split screen on the latest iPad models and not retrofitting it through iOS 9.

See also:

Best cheap Android tablets (June 2015)

April 16, 2017

Can they drop further?

That 7-inch tablet category has always been the most competitive segment of the tablet market, but you have to wonder how much lower prices can go. You could always buy a sub-standard 7-inch tablet for under $100, but being able to get one from a big name like Amazon for just $50 is surely going to blow a lot of the other budget manufacturers out of the water. These are aimed at people who look to price first, so they’re not going to care about the limitations of Amazon’s flavor of Android.

Amazon wants to secure people and get them building a library of content with Amazon, which, alongside subscriptions, is liable to tie them in for the long haul. It has the long term vision and the deep pockets to sell hardware at a loss if it has to. Maybe we’ll see a $20 tablet in a couple of years, or Amazon will start to give them away for free with every Prime membership.

Can other manufacturers compete with this strategy? Without the prospect of a long term revenue stream from content consumption, you’d have to guess that they can’t. That could seriously narrow the field in the next few years.

See also:

Cheap tablets: what to avoid, what to look for

August 10, 2015

No more middle

As for everything in between the cheap and expensive extremes, will they settle into a comfortable niche or gradually fade away? Do you see a good reason to drop a few hundred on a tablet in the 8 to 10-inch range? What’s the purpose of a 10-inch tablet if you have a TV at home and a phablet when you’re out and about?

The future of the tablet is still uncertain. We may well be headed for more polarization. Cheap tablets will become impulse purchase items, and a new class of super-tablet that does everything will emerge at the other end of the market. Of course, if someone works out how to create a phone with a fold-out screen that can expand to tablet-size, we may see the end of the tablet category altogether.

Simon Hill
Simon is an experienced tech writer with a background in game development. He writes for various websites and magazines about the world of tech and entertainment. He uses Android every day and is currently permanently attached to his Galaxy Note 5.
  • josuearisty

    I really hope this $50 Fire Tablet to be rooted and unlocked days after released, so we can install whatever we want.

    I hope to see a good processor inside also.

  • madmax

    Had the Samsung Galaxy 12.2″ tablet for a year. Sold it.

    Reasons: MobileOSes suck for real work and it’s painfully apparent on a larger slate. Mobile Browsers reek compared to their desktop counterparts. There was no useful keyboard dock and/or base – could never just lay down and put a large tablet on my chest/stomach and watch a movie. Damn, I hated how my arms strained.

    I thought Android might develop true multitasking, a browser with serious plugin support, drivers for large capacity sd or hard drives… Jesus, we can’t even get front-firing speakers. Useful, real-world needs.

    MobileOS’s focus remains tracking, data-collection, forced cloud integration, and (non-gaming) apps with just enough power to keep you interested but not enough to leave the desktop. That is… just enough for a handheld.

    • Wa

      Had it for 2 months. Piece of shit. Heavy, low battery life and laggy as hell because of the 1600p screen. I had the Snapdragon 800 version too.

  • Matt

    Have the the Nexus 7(2013) and I agree, I have no real need to upgrade. Its my time waster and I dont need a new one of those every year. I have the Nexus 5 since it came out and am now just looking to upgrade but I use my cell phone all day, I use my tablet maybe an hour or two a day to watch youtube, play games, look at social media, and cast netflix to my tv. If I need to do work, i dont look at my tablet and I dont think I will ever, its just not as practical as a laptop/desktop.

  • kevin farmer

    I have a Sony Tablet Z, using mostly for games, Boom Beach, Siegefall and Empires and Allies. Grandkids also use it to play games ( Minecraft ). Although it isn’t the latest hardware it suits us all pretty well. Certainly wouldn’t pay top money for a replacement, but wouldn’t want to be without it. My phone is a Note 4, okay for games. I also have a Chromebook, great for Internet, not for games.

  • keithbe

    There is just to much tech to keep up. There aren’t any huge gaps between brand variants either so the need to chop a d change once or twice or every second year isn’t a necassary. Let’s call the market maturing…until the next big thing.

  • AsakuraZero

    I have a Nexus 7 2013 and its still as good as the first day i bught it, excellent for bed browsing or bathroom browsing. I just got an Surface pro 2 with 128gb for 450 with keyboard, and accesories (secondhand is the best way to buy things :P) I needed a PC for presentations and work on the go not an Ipad that does crap needs more money on adapters and other crazy things the problem of the tablets is the Os, mobile OS are not good enough for full size tablets.

  • Merah Kuning

    When people buy new phones, it doesn’t necessarily means that they need it. Most do it because they wanna be seen as hip and trendy, carrying the latest gadgets around.
    People hardly carry tablets around anymore. Most use it only in their homes. Thus, if other people can’t see what you’re using, what’s the point of upgrading when there’s no one for you to impress?

  • Javid Nazim Mammadov

    Surface Pro 3 may be a “tablet”, but it is better than a PC. It has high-end PC specs and it runs full version of Windows, yet you can customize it.

    • Nathan Borup

      It does not have “High-End PC Specs”. It is just a dual core processor at most, not to mention it only clocks to 1.9Ghz at most. Try having a 18 core processor clocked at over 3Ghz. That is just one component, don’t even get me started on the rest

      • whateverdude

        anorak

        • Nathan Borup

          Anyone that knows anything about computers would know that a surface pro 3 does not have high end pc specs…

      • Bill_Surowiecki

        Did you really just try and compare a Xeon processor with ANY laptop processor. The new Xeon E5 series is still roughly $2400 for just the CPU. Its not HIGHEND, its business level wares. Im not even going to pull out the old Apples and Oranges here, because that was too dumb to even justify it.

        First off yes, its only a dual core, but the i7 clocks up to 3.3ghz, and the i5 you were talking about ramps up from 1.9 to 2.9. I will take any x86 based processor over an ARM in terms of, well in terms of pretty much anything short of power consumption. So stating HIGH END when in a discussion about a tablets, makes this comment valid.

        Im sorry but you sound like one of those number chasing kids with flashing neons in your Gaming Rig.

        • Nathan Borup

          Except he said “It has high-end PC specs”. An ultrabook processor is never high end. Oh and just so you know if you think that a surface pro 3 can hold its own against an i7-4710HQ in a laptop, you’re wrong. I’ve used a surface pro 3 at work, and it is pretty useless unless you take a lot of notes. Instead I upgraded to a Dell Precision m3800. I dare you to try and tell me the surface pro 3 can hold up against that.
          My comment about the 18 core xeon was just to emphasise that there are much better processors for workloads that you would consider ” High end”. I wasn’t the one that brought up PC hardware in a discussion about tablets. I just hate it when someone sees an i7 sticker and suddenly thinks it is high end, because its not

          • Filly Jnr

            Well it does actually have fairly good specs its not high end per say but its definitely not low end and you comparing it to xeons is stupid

          • Nathan Borup

            It has fairly decent specs for an ultrabook, not for any PC, even laptops. Also, I just want to make one thing clear, xeons are high end… I almost bought a xeon for my desktop, so when someone says that the i7 ultrabook processor with 8GB of ram is high end, I have to correct them because it is not.

  • Chauntella Stephanie Brown

    I really really hope that day doesn’t come! “The end” of the tablet. I love my tablet and enjoy using it alot. I might even start a tablet collection.

  • catapult

    Ppl get ready to be blown on October 6th when the surface pro 4 comes out and ppl will finally have a new reason to buy and upgrade, giving some oxygen to the tablet industry

  • peerpressure

    I still have an iPad 3 that I bought secondhand. Still going strong. Runs anything I want on it with no lag. Battery lasts for 3-4 days (using it about 2 hours a day). There is absolutely no reason to upgrade.

  • A-thought

    Ya know, 2 years ago when my bought my asus t100 windows 2-in-1 for $350 (64 GB, with keyboard included), I thought “I seem to be the only one doing this. To me it seems a device like this that can connect to external displays, power full browsers and video software, and do my casual internet & netflix consumption for this price, blows anything else away. But everyone else is buying mobile os tablets and paying more for them. I must be missing something.” Looking at the trend turning toward PC 2-in-1’s and tablets beginning to dry up, I realize I had it right. I’m not a genius; I just did my homework back then, rather than buying the “get an iPad!” And “get a galaxy!” Hype.

    My advice to consumers out there – do your homework. Determine what you want your device to do and then find out who will deliver it. Certainly can save you a lot of money. I’ve spent about $500 total (when you factor in bluetooth peripherals, mobile external monitor) for my device and it has done everything I’ve needed out of a computer, from tablet consumption to workstation, for 2 years. Haven’t had to buy a single other tablet, laptop or desktop.

  • jeffsters

    “Six-pack of Toyota Yaris and the new Aston Martin DB11: the car market is polarizing”! uh huh…

  • The-Sailor-Man

    I’m fed up of comparing iPad Pro with Surface Pro. Come on. Surface Pro is in the PC category , And iPad Pro has nothing to do there.

    “The iPad Pro stretches things a little further, with a 12.9-inch display, but both of these devices are being sold as laptop replacements” ROTFL. Couldn’t find better advertising for iPad Pro. What site I’m reading??

    iPad Pro is lame copy of Note Pro and no one media dare to say it.

  • Kash Gummaraju

    Honestly how does Apple justify the cost for the iPad Pro? You can get a high end gaming desktop or a mid-range gaming laptop for the 128gb version and a mid range gaming desktop for the starting price….Having a device that can handle several times less load than a good computer but has a high res screen, nice design, and a fingerprint scanner and a processor a couple steps above the intel atom processor can’t be 800 dollars…

    Oh yeah I forgot that 300 dollar device has an Apple logo on it :/

    • Filly Jnr

      Except that the intel atom is a x86 processor so it is more powerfull… you can run desktop apps for a start and yeah doesnt compare to arm at all

  • asianbackhand

    The reason I stopped using my 7′ tablet (Nexus 7 2012) was because it broke and when I was thinking about replacing it, I thought about the best device to replace it with.

    I have been using a Kindle for much of my outside media consumption. Inside, I use a 13 inch MBA, TV and I just ordered the new Nexus 6P. No more use for a tablet. Have all the bases covered. I guess its easy to say when I have so many entertainement and media consumption devices.

  • DavidR

    You’re missing some fundamental points. There are two things that drive purchases – need and desire.

    WRT to need, in the tech world device purchases have been historically been driven by software i.e you need a new device because your old device no longer has the hardware components to run the current software. This is not the case in the the tablet world – I had a three year old tablet that could run any app on the Android market. There was no need for me to upgrade.

    The mass market is disappearing because it has already been sold to and it is not so fashion conscious that it overlooks need or value. It will wait until prices drop (value increases) to the point where a new purchase becomes sensible.

    The upper part of the market (ipad pro, etc) will buy a tablet because of design and desirability.

  • Modman

    Apple devices are the worse ripoff in mankind’s history. I’d pit my 2 and a half old nexus 7 with marshmallow against iPad pro and nexus 7 would be a much better value. Lazy people won’t figure out how to wipe and install a fresh marshmallow build, which would allow nexus 7 to still hold its own with current tablets. My very first unofficial tablet Nook Color I pulled it out of a closet yesterday. Dusted it off and installed cm 10 jelly bean build on it it and dare I say it can hold its own after 5 years. Let’s debunk The isheep lie that android tablets don’t last. Props also to Microsoft for giving surface pro PC like features. Apple is a crutch for non techie people to throw away their money on garbage.
    Props to Samsung for spen which doesn’t need charging. Also comes with pen for free. Broken spen replacements are 3 dollars. Split screen capabilities. Galaxy note 8,10 which when combined with repligo reader allow PDF signing of legal documents out of the box.filled all my i9 paperwork for my new job with my note 8. I’m still waiting for iripoff pad, to do something useful to warrant its high price tag.