After a period of significant growth the tablet market had descended into a slump, with the market predicted to grow by a mere 14 per cent by the end of the year. For reference, the tablet market grew by 71 per cent in 2013, and 79 per cent in 2012. Comparing UK tablet sales from the first three months of 2014 with sales from the same period in 2013 actually saw a 17 per cent decline. Needless to say, while tablets are far from dead, it’s not good news.
But why such a large change? Here are five theories.
1. People are spoilt for choice
This is a trend that started happening the minute the iPad was announced, with companies scrambling to get their own tablets to the market as quickly as possible. The availability of Android meant that hardware manufacturers didn’t have to worry about designing their own custom software nor did they have to worry about licencing costs, meaning almost anyone could create their own tablet and bring it to market. Even a company like Tesco and Aldi, who had no prior experience creating computer hardware, were able to design and sell their own tablets.
It essentially means that consumers are spoilt for choice, and so buying a tablet is something people have to spend some time researching. seven inch or ten inch screen? Android, iPad, or Windows? It can be rather intimidating, and that could put people off buying tablets on a more regular basis.
2. There’s no real innovation
Take a look at a comparison between the iPad 4 and the iPad Air, what’s the difference between them? Other than the iPad Air being thinner and lighter there isn’t any. The two models are more or less identical. The innovation in the tablet industry has stagnated. Just because it’s smaller and thinner doesn’t mean it’s worth spending another £400 to upgrade. When you think about it like that, it’s no wonder sales have dropped.
3. They can’t match the laptop
Ever since tablets started gaining popularity people have been predicting the death of the laptop, yet nothing has come of it. Tablets may have successfully killed off the netbook, but the humble laptop is still going strong. Why? Quite simply because the tablet isn’t at a stage where it can replace having a laptop. Sure they are useful in certain situations, but a tablet is much more limited. Laptops have a larger capacity, can do more, and aren’t that much more expensive than a lot of top-tier tablets.
If you don’t believe me, think about it like this. To activate an iPad, you need to connect it to iTunes on a PC. Tablet sales might well have been overtaking laptop sales once upon a time, but they still rely on them to be used effectively.
4. Everyone has one, and nobody wants to upgrade
Tablet sales have been incredibly high over the past few years, and it could well mean that we’re getting to the stage where a large number of people already own a tablet and they just aren’t that interested in upgrading. Since tablets still aren’t at the stage where they can replace something like a laptop, the tend to be used for a specific reason. If your tablet can still do that in the exact same way as a newer, more expensive, model, why would you upgrade?
5. The rise of the phablet
Tablets have their uses, but they’re still limited by the fact that they don’t fit in your pocket, making a smartphone much more portable. So why not have something that combines the two? A device that is small enough to fit in your pocket, but is large enough to do things that an ordinary smartphone can’t normally do. These so called “phablets” (phones with a screen larger than five inches) have seen a massive rise in popularity, accounting for around a third of all global smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2014.
Multiple phone manufacturers have released their own larger smartphones, and many more are rumoured to be releasing them soon. It makes sense too, why have two devices that do similar functions, one of which needs to be carried around all the time, when you can merge them and fit it in your pocket?
By Tom Pritchard | July 23rd, 2014