Tablet computer sales are slowing down fast, Gartner says

15 Oct 2014

The Apple iPad. Apple is expected to reveal a new one (or ones) tomorrow

Just ahead of Apple revealing its next generation of iPad devices tomorrow, Gartner has predicted that overall sales of tablet devices will slow as consumers look at other devices and form factors.

Worldwide tablet sales will reach 229m in 2014, up 11pc on last year.

Last year tablet sales grew a massive 55pc.

Smartphones now represent 71pc of the global mobile phone market.

Globally, combined shipments of PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones for 2014 are forecast to reach 2.4bn in 2013, up 3.2pc on 2013.

In effect the tablet computer genre has become a victim of its own success and now consumers are spoilt for choice.

Spoilt for choice

“The device market continues to evolve, with the relationship between traditional PCs, different form factor ultramobiles (clamshells, hybrids and tablets) and mobile phones becoming increasingly complex,” explained Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. 

In the tablets segment, the downward trend stems from the slowdown in basic ultramobiles — new sales of iPads and Android tablets — and the lifetime extension of current tablets to three years by 2018.

Gartner projects over 90m fewer new tablet purchasers and 155m fewer tablet replacements through 2018. 

“Some tablet users are not replacing a tablet with a tablet, they are favoring hybrid or two-in-one devices, increasing its share of the ultramobile premium market to 22pc in 2014, and 32pc by 2018,” Atwal said.

The market favours cheaper smartphones

Sales of basic smartphones including midrange Android devices are projected to grow 52pc in 2014, while utility smartphone units (including low-end Chinese white box devices) will double. 

“The market is clearly favoring those vendors offering value in lower-priced smartphones. This trend has become more apparent, especially in the second quarter of 2014 when most of the top Chinese smartphone vendors grew volume and market share,” said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.

“As smartphones reach lower prices, Gartner expects nine out of 10 phones to be smartphones by 2018.” 

The expansion of affordable mobile phones that are attracting replacements in many emerging countries has contributed to the increase in the global market share of smartphones, which is set to reach 71pc in 2014, up 17percentage points from 2013.

Battle of the operating systems

Android and iOS have further entrenched their market positions in the global phone market, making it difficult for alternative ecosystems to become more than niche players. 

In the operating system (OS) market, the emerging markets represent an attractive sector for Android, which is set to grow 47pc in 2014.

In 2015, Gartner estimates that shipments of Android devices will reach over one billion in emerging markets, driven by sales of lower-cost products.

Apple’s new devices, which target the premium market, will continue to help drive iOS volumes.

These devices will benefit from a controlled and integrated ecosystem, a focus on the user experience and a leading enterprise tablet position.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years