According to new data from Strategy Analytics, consumers have officially fallen out of love with tablets. Despite numerous reports in the lead up to the 2015 holiday season that put devices like the iPad very much at the top of people’s tech gift wish lists, the year ended with tablets experiencing their worst year-on-year performance since the device category’s creation.
Strategy Analytics’ figures show that shipments fell 11% over the last quarter of the year and 8% over 2015 as a whole – or 224.3 million devices sold in total.
Consumers’ growing preference for phablets – i.e., handsets with a display larger than 5.1-inches – has been eroding the appeal for smaller tablets for some time but the drop-off in interest is about more than simply screen size. Unlike other mobile devices, tablets have remained largely stagnant in terms of what they offer their users.
Peter King, Research Director, Tablet & Touchscreen Strategies service, said, “Apple suffered big setbacks this year as a lack of innovation during the last several years caught up to iPad sales.”
As well as growing demand for bigger phones, this lack of perceived innovation could explain why tablets with the 2-in-1 form factor, such as Microsoft’s Surface devices, are bucking the trend. Strategy Analytics’ data shows shipments jumped by 379% year on year.
Eric Smith, Senior Analyst, Tablet & Touchscreen Strategies service, added, “2-in-1 detachable tablets have reached an inflection point in 2015 as computing needs continue to trend more and more mobile and tablets with Windows 10 can compete against iOS in the premium and high price bands and equally well against Android in the mid and lower price bands. The Q4 2015 launch of Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book was met with many "Surface clones” by Microsoft’s OEM partners at lower price points. This variety of devices will bolster momentum of Windows tablets going forward.“
There is belief that Apple’s iPad Pro will develop into a very desirable device: "We see real long-term potential for [it] in the enterprise and verticals,” said King. But experts believe it will take time.
However, reports suggest that Apple will be addressing this lack of innovation in its mainstream iPad range as soon as March. Several sources have claimed the iPad Air 3, Apple’s 9-inch slate, is going to get a better camera, complete with flash, four rather than two speakers, and, most importantly, considering the booming popularity of 2-in-1s, the same smart connector that’s on the iPad Pro for clipping to proper keyboards and other peripherals.