Tablet computer sales have been declining, and are expected to continue into the foreseeable future. Though this might be a surprise to some, here are 3 reasons why the bottom might be falling out of that market.
Over the past two financial quarters, global analysts have noted a marked decline in tablet computer sales worldwide. Unlike the double digit growth that was the norm (e.g. as high as 28% at the end of last year), forecasts indicate that the tablet segment will grow by a compound annual rate of just 9% over the next five years (Source: Business Insider). Though initially the decline might have been considered a temporary glitch, there is a growing sense that the once held belief that tablets would eclipse both the laptop/PC and the smartphone, will not occur. Here are three reasons why the tablets are unlikely to replace laptops and smartphones.
1. The tablet is no longer unique
When first released, tablets were considered to be a unique intermediate between a laptop and a smartphone – more portable than a laptop with touchscreen capability, but with a larger screen size and greater processing power than a smart phone.
However, as laptops continue to become lighter and even have touchscreens, and in some instances, are more competitively priced than a tablet, the tablet might not be the preferred device to replace a laptop. Similarly, many smartphone lines include larger sized models, such as the “phablet”, whilst most tablet manufacturers have expanded their range to include a “mini” version. Hence the differentiating factors between the tablet and the laptop, and the tablet and the smartphone, might no longer be as distinct, resulting in a less-than-unique, and so less-sought-after, tablet computer device.
2. Tablet use is not as ubiquitous as smartphones
Without a doubt, the smartphone is the workhorse telecoms device for most persons. Due to its highly portable nature – in a way that laptops and tablets are not – smartphones are with users almost constantly, which provide a wealth of opportunities to become even more integrated into their lives.
In a recently conducted survey, over 90% of respondents who had tablets used them on Wi-Fi, even if the device had mobile/cellular capability (Source: Business Insider). It therefore suggests that tablets are being used for what can be perceived as “non-critical activities” – where there might not be a sense of urgency, or the need for real-time results, if users are prepared to wait to be connected to Wi-Fi in order to properly use the device.
3. Consumer demand for tablets has dropped
The data collected, by firms such as IDC, does suggest a long-term slowdown of tablet computer sales, whilst those for laptops, which had declined in recent years, have begun to pick up. In the aforementioned survey, of 92% of survey respondents who already owned a tablet, almost half of them were purchased over two years ago, i.e. 2012 and earlier (Source: Business Insider). More importantly, there was not necessarily a sense of urgency to replace those aging devices.
On the other hand, the intensive use that smartphones experience makes them subject to considerable wear and tear, and more frequent replacement in comparison to tablets and more so PCs and laptops.
Anecdotally, there might be some corroboration for the survey finding in the Caribbean, as the resale value for a tablet, even an iPad and especially an older model, has been considerably lower than anticipated. However, for a premium smartphone, a comparatively high resale value has been the norm.
In summary, the tablet computer might not be the long term game changer envisaged, but it did revolutionise the portable computing segment by pushing the boundaries of what is possible. However, with devices such as the laptop and smartphone evolving to incorporate features initially unique to the tablet, the innovation path for the tablet has become uncertain, which may ultimately lead to its extinction.
Image credit: miniyo73 / flickr