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?

Comments

  • Luka Mlinar

    Even Motorola moved their flagship product to a phablet form factor. This is getting stupid.

  • EvenInTheDarkestHour

    It is easy to blame phablets, but…
    My Nexus 10, still works brilliantly. And with the relatively light computing load to bear, o do my other tablets. As long as one purchases a good device to start, unless something catastrophic happens, there is just no need to replace it.

  • Eric Hayes

    As an original Note owner, I bought the Note 3 last November. I just bought the Note Pro a week ago. I don’t see a need to buy another tablet anytime soon. I may still get the Note 4 when it releases.

  • Timmy

    Naturally we need a different tablet for different tasks…one tablet to read email, one to take pictures, one for GPS navigation. ;-)

  • guest

    Had two tablets, got a phablet, I now have no need for a tablet.

  • renz

    no. that’s mean PC/Laptop is on the rise again / :P

  • asd

    I plan to get the note 4 but phablets are hardly to blame…if the tablet works well whats the point of buying another one ?

  • John-Phillip Saayman

    I have a nexus 10 but at the moment nothing is compelling me to get something else. Unless a new very nice large size tablet comes along. I hope the Nexus 10 gets more software support since there’s been no other replacement that I could’ve gotten.

  • alen

    Mobile companies don’t know what they are doing. These phones just getting bigger and bigger. If this trend continues in 2 years we will see 8 inch “phones. And worst part is that it’s gonna be completely normal

    • Anothermuse

      Well people are buying bigger phones, so would sort of appear they do know what they are doing. But it will hit a max, probably the 6″ level.

  • Will S.

    The problem is price. To buy a tablet one must pay upfront the entire cost whereas to buy a phone a contract makes $600 phones appear to be “free”. Tablet will never reach the same level of sales as smartphones.

    • toboev

      True enough, but then it was ever so, so it does not account for the change.

  • Lars

    The problem is the tablet itself. Compared to smartphone or full-fledged laptop, the usefulness of tablet is still debatable.

    • toboev

      Lars, that is the thing with tablets. Since day one I have wondered, what do people use them for?

  • gary

    So a growth of 14% and everyone’s talking about the death of tablets? This is hilarious. Stop writing such BS hyperbole. Until tablets are actually IN DECLINE and something replaces it, then there really isn’t a story here at all.

  • Michael Bernard

    Tablets have always seemed pointless to me. All they are is a scaled up phone that lacks all the functionality of a PC. To have something so big and so useless doesn’t make any sense unless you’re heavily into media consumption. Samsung is the only company that I’ve seen try to make the tablet useful by adding features that can make your life more productive. I’d argue that 97% of the tablets on the market are the same and realistically there’s no reason to consider upgrading until companies can figure out way to make them do more.

    • Anothermuse

      I don’t agree with pointless, especially if you have kids, but I do agree that there needs to be something more to them. Handwriting input for one needs to get better and more accessible. That change alone at sub $300 starts moving it to another level.

      Jobs was completely wrong about the stylus, at least for business needs.

      And the slowdown isn’t because of phones, just because they will have longer lifespans and there’s not reason for upgrades yet.