Overall Tablet Market Declined By As Much As 10 Percent In 2015

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The numbers are in, and it’s not good news – for tablet sales that is. A pair of new market share reports show declining numbers of tablets shipped in 2015. According to one report from Strategy Analytics, 224.3 million tablets were shipped last year – a decline of 8 percent from 2014. IDC’s numbers, however, are even worse – with an estimated 206.8 million tablets shipped in 2015, or a 10.1 percent decline from the year prior.

The discrepancies in terms of raw shipments can be attributed to how the firms go about estimating the market size and sales trends. However, both could agree on some larger trends: for starters, Apple continues to lead in terms of tablet market share, though that lead is slipping.

According to IDC, Apple saw a 24.8 percent year-over-year decline in tablet shipments, but it was able to curb the decline in terms of revenue by focusing on higher-priced tablets, like the newly launched iPad Pro. Meanwhile, Strategy Analytics was more sour on the iPad Pro, saying that while it had long-term potential in the enterprise and verticals, it failed to meet expectations in Q4 2015.

Both firms also agreed that Samsung was ranked as the No. 2 tablet maker despite also declining (by 18.1 percent said IDC). However, IDC claimed Amazon moved into the third spot in Q4 2015, while Strategy Analytics gave that spot to Lenovo, followed by Amazon.

Amazon’s decent-enough ranking, in either case, can be attributed to demand for its super-cheap $50 tablet, which was a holiday season surprise hit. Lenovo and Huawei both also focused on low-end tablets to their advantage, while expanding outside of China.

That being said, IDC said that today’s tablet shoppers are not only considering price – they’re also interested in performance, and using tablets instead of PC’s.

“One of the biggest reasons why detachables are growing so fast is because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements,” said IDC’s Research Director for tablets, Jean Philippe Bouchard. “We believe Apple sold just over two million iPad Pros while Microsoft sold around 1.6 million Surface devices, a majority of which were Surface Pro and not the more affordable Surface 3. With these results, it’s clear that price is not the most important feature considered when acquiring a detachable – performance is.”

Strategy Analytics also agreed on this larger point, noting that 2-in-1 detachable tablets had reached an “inflection point” in 2015. The firm agreed that Microsoft’s Windows 10 looks to be capable of competing with iOS in both the premium and high-end space, as well as against Android in the lower to mid-price bands.

The variety of tablets at varying price points will boost Windows tablets’ momentum going forward, said analyst Eric Smith.

In fact, detachables were one of the few highlights amid tablets’ overall declines.

Noted IDC, while pure slate tablets saw their greatest annual decline ever with a drop of 21.1 percent, detachables more than doubled their shipments since the fourth quarter of 2014.

Strategy Analytics claimed 2-in-1 tablet shipments were up 379 percent year-over-year in 2015.

“Despite lukewarm reviews, the iPad Pro was the clear winner this season as it was the top selling detachable, surpassing notable entries from Microsoft and other PC vendors,” added IDC’s senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani. “It’s also important to note that the transition towards detachable tablets has presented positive opportunities for both Apple and Microsoft.”

“However, Google’s recent foray into this space has been rather lackluster as the Android platform will require a lot more refinement to achieve any measurable success,” he said.

This was certainly true with Google’s iPad Pro competitor, the Pixel C, whose half-baked software was called out by several reviewers as one of the main issues with the device.

Both firms noted Q4 2015’s poor growth, too. IDC said 65.9 million units were shipped in the quarter, down by 13.7 percent year-over-year. Strategy Analytics pegged that number at 69.9 million units, or a decline of 11 percent.

The full reports are available online. (IDC, Strategy Analytics.) A summary of their data is in the charts below.

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