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Tablets in double digit decline as smartphones return to double digit growth

Strategy Analytics says tablet shipments were down 10% year-on-year in Q1, 2017. The smartphone market, meanwhile, continues to grow.

Published onMay 5, 2017

The tablet market saw a double-digit, year-on-year drop during Q1, 2017, according to a preliminary report from research company Strategy Analytics. Tablet shipments were down 10% year-on-year, while researcher Counterpoint says smartphone shipments were up 11% year-over-year for the same period.

Tablet sales peaked around 2014 after being one of the fastest growing markets in consumer tech. As manufacturers struggled to deliver innovations with the products every 12 months and owners held onto them for years, however, shipments began to drop off. If this latest sharp decline is anything to go by, that trend is only set to continue.

Meanwhile, smartphone shipments continue to grow, though the pace is also slowing down. New low-cost handsets and wider LTE availability in emerging markets are doing much to keep it on the up, while mature markets are treading water.

However, the tablet market may not be declining quite as badly as Strategy Analytics‘ estimates. IDC suggests it only fell by 8.5% year-over-year during Q1, 2017 in its preliminary findings. Either way, it’s still a market in decline, so manufacturers are going to have to come up with some new ways to make tablets more appealing if they want to turn things around.

Heavier investing in hybrid or 2-in-1 tablets could be one idea as they serve two purposes at once — they can be used like a more traditional laptop with a keyboard and trackpad or as a touchscreen tablet. The convergence of systems like Android OS and Chrome OS, with features like Chrome OS apps, also stand to make hybrid tablets more of an attractive prospect.

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It might also be worth OEMs taking some tips from HUAWEI: the Chinese manufacturer’s tablet market share grew 37% year-on-year according to Strategy Analytics, and it was the only OEM to show any positive growth at all. Even Apple’s iPads are struggling.

As the market started to dry up, so too did the new offerings. Microsoft’s Surface 4 Pro hasn’t seen a refresh since October 2015, and Google’s last tablet, the Pixel C hybrid, came out in December of that year. Other manufacturers like HTCessentially abandoned the space altogether.

With any luck, manufacturers will make renewed attempts to deliver less-costly, more varied tablet products in the future, rather than ceasing to pursue them altogether. Even if current tablet owners are holding onto their slates for a long time, they’ll need an upgrade sooner or later.

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