The tablet and hybrid device market lagged during the fourth quarter of 2014 with 76.1 million units sold, a decline of 3.2% compared with the 78.6 million devices shipped during the same quarter in 2013. This drop in sales marks the first time that tablet sales have declined since the inception of the market in 2010, reports IDC.
Just about every major tablet vendor had a poor quarter. Apple led the market with 21.4 million iPads sold, a 17.8% decline from the same period in 2013. Second-place Samsung saw an 18.4% decline in shipments with 11 million devices shipped. Amazon had the worst results: Its Kindle Fire sales fell 70%, with just 1.7 million units shipped during its most recent quarter. Asus experienced a decline of 25%.
Lenovo was the only major tablet vendor to experience growth. Shipments rose to hit 3.7 million units, an increase of 9.1% from the previous year. IDC notes that Lenovo boasts a strong portfolio depth with a wide range of screen sizes that run on both Android and Windows. End-users are shifting towards larger screens and greater productivity, says IDC, which the company was able to accommodate.
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The report confirms a slowdown that vendors have already begun to acknowledge. Apple recently announced a decline in iPad demand during a 2014 holiday quarter that proved successful for iPhone and Mac sales. On the same day IDC released its data, Microsoft temporarily slashed the price of its Surface 3 Pro by $100, as reported by Forbes.
IDC claims that the decline in demand is partially due to a dearth of prominent tablet makers. "The tablet market is still very top heavy in the sense that it relies mostly on Apple and Samsung to carry the market forward each year," said IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani.
Even though Apple broadened its iPad lineup by continuing older models and cutting its entry price point to $249, the company couldn't generate enough excitement to boost tablet sales. Samsung continued to struggle as learned that mid- to high-priced Android tablets don't fit into a market where they compete with low-cost vendors.
Instead of focusing on tablets, consumers have been showing a greater interest in larger smartphones, or "phablets." Apple benefitted by venturing into this market with its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, both of which contributed to a record of 74.5 million iPhones sold. The larger phones are stiff competition for smaller tablets like the iPad Mini.
Consumers' preference for smartphones isn't the only factor inhibiting tablet performance. Most people don't purchase upgraded tablets in the same way that they chase new smartphones. In addition, studies show that people who buy new tablets frequently give their old devices to family and friends, which puts a greater dent in sales.
IDC predicts future growth in the tablet market despite news of its recent decline. Shipments for the full year 2014 showed an increase of 4.4% with a total of 229.6 million devices sold. New technologies, and the launch of Windows 10, will propel its momentum.
"Microsoft's new OS, a general shift towards larger screen form factor and productivity-focused solutions, and technology innovations such as gesture interface that could be introduced in tablets will help the market maintain positive growth in 2015," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets at IDC.
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