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5/2/2014
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Phablets Put The Hurt On Tablets

Tablet makers face challenges as large-screen phones grab more market share, IDC reports.

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Phablets and the longer replacement cycle for tablets have left a dent in demand for slates. The growth rate of tablet sales may already be leveling off, according data from IDC. Tablet makers shipped 50.4 million devices, a precipitous drop of 35.7% compared to the holiday quarter, and a meager increase of just 3.9% from the year-ago period. The numbers suggest 2014 may be a difficult one for companies that make tablets.

Apple managed to stay ahead of the competition during the first quarter, with shipments of 16.4 million iPads. Remember, that's a big drop from the 19.5 million iPads Apple shipped during the first quarter of 2013. Apple's share of the market contracted slightly, from 33.2% in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 32.5% in the first quarter of 2014. Apple introduced the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display during the fourth quarter and enjoyed robust holiday sales.

Samsung saw its share of the tablet market increase markedly. During the first quarter of 2013, Samsung enjoyed 17.5% of the tablet market. That figure grew to 22.3% during the first quarter thanks to shipments of 11.2 million devices. Samsung sells a range of tablets, including the high-end TabPRO and NotePRO line, as well as a couple mid-market slates and entry-level devices. The TabPRO/NotePRO devices didn't reach the market until halfway through the quarter.

[Recent reports suggest a Surface Mini is coming. Read Will Microsoft Mini Surface Tablet In May?]

IDC believes Apple and Samsung will face difficulty drumming up support for their devices for the remainder of the year. "The rise of large-screen phones and consumers who are holding on to their existing tablets for ever-longer periods of time were both contributing factors to a weaker-than-anticipated quarter for tablets," said Tom Mainelli, IDC program VP, devices and displays. "In addition, commercial growth has not been robust enough to offset the slowing of consumer shipments."

Big-screened phones, often called phablets, are everywhere. Samsung kicked off the phablet craze with the Galaxy Note in 2011 and followed it up with two solid hits in the Note II and Note 3. HTC, LG, Nokia, and Sony all offer large-screen devices, which have become big sellers. Most of today's flagship devices boast screens measuring five inches. Phablets push the envelope even further, with displays that stretch to six inches or more.

Replacement cycles are another issue tablet makers will need to either address or get used to. Consider Apple's iPad: Apple has shown a penchant for offering only modest upgrades to its slates year over year, which makes it harder to convince consumers to buy the latest model. The same is true of the hardware made by others. There's no need to buy a new tablet every year, as many devices offer a good experience for 18 to 24 months.

Curious about how the different tablet operating systems stacked up? "With roughly two-thirds share, Android continues to dominate the market," said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst at Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. "Although its share of the market remains small, Windows devices continue to gain traction thanks to sleeper hits like the Asus T100, whose low cost and 2-in-1 form factor appeal to those looking for something that's 'good enough.'"

IDC didn't have anything to say about Microsoft's second-generation Surface tablets, which arrived last fall. Microsoft's Windows 8.1 and RT platforms have only a small sliver of the tablet market, wedged between Android and iOS.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
5/5/2014 | 10:25:37 AM
Re: New op
I tend to agree here with the sentiment that there's not a huge need for a tablet upgrade -- I like my small tablet fine, but I don't put many demands on it. It's a web reader first and foremost, and an occasional e-book reader.
Ks2 Problema
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Ks2 Problema,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/3/2014 | 10:38:50 PM
Re: employe
The message from kaylejedwards (under which I clicked 'reply' -- although this post seems to have appeared ABOVE the message being replied to) is SPAM.

S. P. A. M. Perhaps you have heard of the phenomenon?

Why doesn't IW have a REPORT THIS POST function?

It's 2014, IW. 
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 5:48:42 PM
Re: New op
Been thinking today about the exact questions you pose, since reading this article in the morning.

My wife has a Nexus 7. For her, its a mobile web browser. Anywhere she can get WiFi, she can hit up whatever websites she wants. If not, she uses her phone as a mobile hotpost.

I think she might start using it as a remote control for the cable box too, since the cable company offers it. Can't vouch for how well that will work out, but thats another story for another day.

What strikes me about her usage is that there really isn't anything that would make her say "Oh my tablet needs to be replaced because it doesn't do/have _____ like that new ones does!"

I suspect that she is not alone, that many others won't have a compelling reason to upgrade their tablets until they break. This leads me to believe that tablet replacement cycles are going to be quite different than smartphone replacement cycles, and much longer.

It may be that as most people that want a tablet (whether they knew they wanted one or not) finally have one, tablet sales may actually drop off quite a bit. I sure hope manufacturers aren't depending on continued market growth to fund the expenses of today. If they are, then tomorrow's tablets may be a *lot* more expensive than today's.
Gary_EL
IW Pick
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 5:06:56 PM
Re: New op
Nope, no latex. I'm talking about a seemless method of carrying a phone or a tablet and reading glasses. And, while we're at it, why not a space for blood pressure and cholesterol medications? Very few six-packs in the crew I'm lobbying for, except for the six-packs in our refrigerators. I was thinking about a modern update the unfortunate "fanny packs" of a decade ago. Somewhere, someplace there is a guru/god who decides what is hip, or at least acceptable, for American men to wear. I call on that entity. We need an update since payphones have beeen replaced with smartphones and tablets.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 2:36:15 PM
Re: New op
I thought that when Apple came out with the iPad Mini it was a significant refresh of its tablet lineup. But since then, I have found it harder to understand what is going to entice consumers to buy new models. 

Sure, over time tablets are going to get outdated. But is that going to motivate people to buy a brand new model? I would argue that it is going to take some really useful features in order to keep the sales numbers up. 
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 11:30:10 AM
Re: New op
BFP.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2014 | 6:00:16 PM
Re: New op
If it were up to me, the official designations would be:

Phone

Bloated Phone

Small Tablet

Large Tablet

Monitor

 

Each designation would apply to a specific range of dimensions. Falling into the "bloated phone" category would be undesirable from a marketing perspective. That would lead to fewer bloated phones and more general contentment in the world.

(I'd probably be willing to accept "magnaphone" as a compromise.)
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2014 | 5:50:24 PM
Re: New op
Agreed, many people hate the word "phablet" -- what would you call it? Maybe we should run a contest for a new name.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2014 | 5:46:22 PM
Re: New op
The word "phablet" should be banned. It's awful.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2014 | 3:22:02 PM
Re: New op
Phablets fit in a man's jacket pocket, and I saw many carried this way at our recent conference. Not the iPad mini though. That must be a factor.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
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