Tablet Market Skews Toward Smaller Size Displays: CEA

Ownership of tablets with small screens between 7 and 8 inches have increased to 32 percent in December 2013, from 25 percent in June 2013.

More than four in 10 (44 percent) online U.S. consumers owned tablets as of December 2013, an increase of six percentage points from December 2012 (38 percent), according to a semi-annual report released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) that examines trend information on consumer behavior and sentiment regarding tablet computers.

Although revenue growth has slowed, unit sales for tablets will continue to see steady increases this year, according to CEA’s U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecast, once again contributing significantly to the total consumer electronics (CE) industry’s bottom line.

Unit sales of tablets are projected to reach 89.3 million in 2014, up from 77.4 million in 2013, while revenues for tablets will reach $27.3 billion this year, up by 3 percent over last year, the report noted.

The report indicated that among tablet owners, screen size plays an important role in portability and viewing content, and ownership seems to be shifting somewhat to smaller screens.

Among current owners, ownership of medium screens between 8.9 and 10.1 inches have decreased from 73 percent in June 2013 to 68 percent in December 2013, while small screens of between 7 and 8 inches have increased to 32 percent in December 2013 from 25 percent ownership in June 2013.

"Tablets had a strong 2014 holiday season, particularly on Black Friday, but are showing the beginning signs of market saturation," Kevin Tillmann, senior research analyst with CEA, said in a statement. "Striking the right chord with consumers’ tablet expectations following the holiday season will be imperative to improving sales, despite slowing penetration during the past year. Consumers are looking for competitive pricing and simplicity, now that several manufacturers are in the mix."

Among the roughly one-third of tablet owners (35 percent) who have purchased applications within the past month, more than half (58 percent) spent more than $5. The average monthly expenditure among tablet owners purchasing at least one app is $8.89, resulting in a projected total of $256 million spent on apps per month by tablet owners.

Overall, tablet owners use a wide variety of apps with their devices, and games remain the most popular type of app. Two-thirds (66 percent) of tablet owners use gaming apps, followed by weather apps (58 percent) and social networking apps (51 percent).

Looking ahead, nearly three in four (70 percent) online consumers expect to purchase tablets sometime in the future, holding steady with purchase intent figures reported by CEA last quarter.

The report follows a study conducted earlier this month by IT research firm Gartner, which found the worldwide tablet market is forecast to grow 47 percent with lower average selling prices attracting new users, as consumers continue to buy tablets as an additional device that they carry everywhere.

Gartner’s report also said smaller tablets are likely to take over from the larger tablet form factors, providing the added mobility that consumers desire at a lower cost and therefore would compete with hybrids for consumer attention.