Tablet Market Continues to Shrink Around the World: Report

Apple sold 23 percent fewer iPads in Q1 2015 than it did in the same quarter the year prior, while Samsung also reported a 30 percent sales decline for Q1.

tablet sales decline

The global tablet computer market has shrunk for the second quarter in a row, with Apple and Samsung selling 23 percent and 30 percent fewer tablets respectively, according to a new report from ABI Research.

Apple's iPad shipments in the first quarter of 2015 hit 12.62 million iPads, which is a drop of 23 percent from the same quarter one year prior, according to ABI. Apple shipped 21.42 million iPads in the fourth quarter of 2014, which was an 18 percent drop from the same period one year prior.

Samsung fared similarly, with a 30 percent decline in tablet sales for the first quarter of 2015, compared to the same period one year prior. For all tablet makers overall in Q1, tablet sales are down 13 percent across the board compared to a year ago, according to ABI.

"There is no denying the market is losing its momentum," Stephanie Van Vactor, a mobile devices analyst with ABI, said in a statement. "The market is in the process of going through a transition as developed markets shift to a refresh / replacement cycle. In addition, vendors are feeling the squeeze due to new devices gaining traction in the market that are in direct competition with tablets, for example, 2-in-1s, phablets, and Chromebooks."

Van Vactor told eWEEK that the tablet sales figure drops were larger than she expected. Some of that decline was likely caused by consumers buying other devices instead, such as Apple's iPhone 6 smartphones, which were released last September and have sold in record numbers. At the same time, Van Vactor said she does not expect tablet sales to again reach the larger sales volumes that they were hitting just a few years ago.

A major reason for the lower sales figures is that once consumers have tablets, they find little need to upgrade or replace them if they are still operating, she said. "They last a long time and there's no incentive really for people to have to refresh them. If their tablet is working perfectly they don't get any carrier perks to refresh it."

For most consumers, upgrading their primary computing devices, such as desktops or laptops, is more important to them, said Van Vactor. "I don't think [consumers] are getting bored, but there is a much longer refresh cycle on these devices."

Also affecting tablet purchases is that enterprises and consumers appear to be finding that tablets are not a replacement for laptops and desktops, which makes them more casual devices that don't need to be replaced as often, she said.

"Tablets really never stuck in the enterprise as much as people originally anticipated," said Van Vactor. "We saw some interest in the education market at one point, but Chromebooks have really taken off, especially in the education sector," compared to tablets. "[Chromebooks] are just more functional and cheaper and are secure and can be customized for education. [Tablets] definitely aren't as functional and you have to buy a keyboard."

Though tablets have faltered in the marketplace, Van Vactor said she does not see them disappearing. "Some people absolutely love them, but it's definitely that casual device for users. They're not going to have that growth that they had when they first appeared. They're not going to replace laptops and ultrabooks. I just don't see that happening in the market anytime soon."

One interesting segment in the tablet marketplace are 2-in-1 devices, which combine a tablet and a laptop into one device, giving users both tools, said Van Vactor. "I think 2-in-1's can have a little bit more of an impact in the market. They seem to be picking up very well."

In January, a Gartner report reached similar conclusions about tablet sales, which the company said will likely decline over 2015, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Worldwide tablet sales are expected to hit 233 million devices in 2015, up 8 percent from 2014, but quite a bit fewer than the numbers seen in the previous few years, Gartner reported.