Global tablet shipments decline for first time, large screen phones to blame?

July 10, 2014
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We’ve seen a number of reports on the death of the tablet form factor, and we’ve even conducted our own polls that indicate tablets are no longer the hottest trend in mobile. But are they really dead? While that’s a loaded question with no easy answer, NPD DisplaySearch reports that tablet shipments have declined for the first time since their meteoric rise to fame starting with the iPad in 2010.

The decline is believed to be in large part due to the growth of large screened smartphones, which has led to a decline in interest for tablets that are in the 7 to 7.9-inch range. This is particularly true in emerging markets such as China, where phones with 5.5+ screens are becoming increasingly commonplace.

The decline is believed to be in large part due to the growth of large screened smartphones

In the first quarter of 2014, 56 million tablets were shipped world-wide, down from 59 million units a year prior. As a result, NPD has now lowered its tablet shipment forecast for 2014 down to 285 million units. This still represents a growth of 14%, but is a less aggressive prediction than their original forecast of 315 million units.

There is a risk that the replacement cycle for tablet PCs will lengthen beyond the one to two year range unless brands can develop more attractive usage scenarios.
Hidekazu Torii
NPD analyst

Of course there’s probably a lot more to the decline than just the rise of larger smartphones. As technology advances, we’ve reached a point where folks simply aren’t upgrading their tablets as often, even if they are still using them at home for basic tasks like web browsing and watching video. Until tablets become more robust in functionality (more advanced gaming, better video/photo editing, etc), buying a tablet every 1-2 years doesn’t seem like such a smart investment anymore.

Can this situation change? Sure, if devices like the LG-made Project Tango tablet take off, there could be new use case scenarios that help the tablet market rise once again. For now, all we can do is wait and see. What do you think, if tablets advance in capabilities will they continue to grow as a popular mobile computing device? Conversely, do you feel that tablets are on their death bed?

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