Tablet Sales Continue to Fall, but the End of Tablets Is Not Near

Global tablet sales are way off since 2009, falling 35 percent in the last quarter alone, according to the latest analysis from ABI Research.

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Consumer tablet computer shipments keep falling, but in the first quarter of 2015, they fell by 35 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2014, giving the category its worst quarter-to-quarter decline since it was first tracked in 2009. Year-over-year, the decline was 16 percent.

Those are the key conclusions of a recent market analysis on tablets conducted by ABI Research, which reported that "there is no denying the market is losing its momentum and leading vendors are feeling the squeeze."

Yet at the same time, "the slowdown does not necessarily mean the end of the tablet market," the report continues. Tablets sold like gangbusters when they first were popularized, especially after the 2010 release of the first Apple iPads, which led the market, but that success has not been sustained, the report states.

Tablets have also been finding uses in education and the business sector, but much of that use is based on price, the long lifespans of the devices and on market competition, the report continues.

"That initial growth the market experienced may never happen again for tablets, but they are still a strong force in the market," Jeff Orr, a senior analyst at ABI, said in a statement.

Because of the changing shipment figures since 2009, the tablet market could remain relatively stagnant in 2015 unless smaller vendors make it a more competitive landscape, according to ABI.

So far, Apple and Samsung have been key market players and continue to dominate a significant majority of the tablet market, the report says. "2015 is the pivotal year for smaller, competing vendors to step-up, build their business, and gain market share in advanced and emerging markets," said Orr. "The tablet market lacks a truly competitive playing field needing a strong third even fourth vendor to drive the market out of stagnation."

Companies such as Acer, Asus and Lenovo "all show promise for claiming those spots but need to focus on building their businesses especially in markets where purchase decisions are still largely to be made," the report states.

A similar study by Forrester Research, released on July 13, concludes that while the global tablet demand has plateaued it is still growing within enterprises, where "company-owned tablets are growing at a much faster rate than the overall market."

In May, ABI reported that Apple sold 23 percent fewer iPads in the first quarter of 2015 than it did in the same quarter the year prior, while Samsung also reported a 30 percent sales decline for Q1. 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 with the same period one year prior. For all tablet makers overall in Q1, tablet sales are down 13 percent across the board compared with a year ago, according to ABI.

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 since they continue to work and don't need to be refreshed, ABI said earlier.