Even the holiday quarter of 2016 could save the dwindling tablet market as it continued its spirally decline, IDC says.
While Apple’s hold on the market remains unchallenged, the analyst firm says it is not immune to market challenges, while Lenovo has been pipped as ‘one to watch’ in 2017.
The fourth quarter of 2016 marked the ninth consecutive quarter of decline for tablet shipments, with vendors shipping 52.9 million tablets representing a decline of 20.1% from the same quarter one year ago.
Similarly, shipments of 174.8 million units for the full year 2016 were down 15.6% compared to 2015, marking the second straight year of declining shipments, the analyst firm reports.
"The sentiment around the tablet market continues to grow stale despite a lot of talk about vendors pivoting their product portfolios toward the detachable segment," explains Ryan Reith, , program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers.
“Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions and, as a result, we see the decline happening globally,” he says.
“We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost,” Reith adds.
“Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don't equate to large revenues."
Vendors that have historically led the notebook PC market are also talking about expanding their product portfolios to include more detachable tablets, although currently there is more talk than action, Reith states.
As a result, he says Apple and Microsoft are dominating the detachable tablet segment.
“IDC believes the second half of 2017 will bring a wide range of new detachable devices from the notebook PC OEMs as well as those playing primarily in the smartphone space,” says Reith.
Yet, according to Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, even detachable tablets struggled to maintain momentum in the fourth quarter as flagship products from key players like Microsoft and Apple started to show signs of age.
"The market continues to warm up to two-in-one devices, but we're now getting to a point where the price and performance disparity between detachables and convertibles has started to narrow, and this added competition led to a dampening in the growth of detachable tablets," Ubrani explains.
"However, we expect this to be temporary as only two of the three major platforms have any significant hardware presence in the detachable market, and as the ecosystems are further refined with future updates and developer support,” he says.
Tablet Vendor Highlights
Apple's venerable hold on the tablet market is yet to be challenged although IDC says the company is not immune to overall market challenges, declining 18.8% in 4Q16.
The iPad Pro lineup made up only a small portion of overall shipments as the iPad Air 2 and Mini tablets continued to account for the majority of the shipments for Apple. For every 10 slate tablets shipped, Apple only sold 1 iPad Pro tablet.
Samsung remained the number two tablet vendor in the holiday season capturing 15.1% market share on 8 million shipments. The bad news is that this was down -11.4% from the holiday quarter in 2015, IDC reveals.
The Tab S2 and Tab A continue to be the strongest models for Samsung and its largest markets for tablet consumption continue to be the United States, Europe, and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan).
Amazon's Fire tablets continued their hot streak, earning the company third place overall in 4Q16, IDC reports.
The already low cost tablets were further discounted during the Black Friday sales period although this was still not enough to stave off an annual decline.
However, IDC says it is important to note that Amazon is in the unique position where tablet market share is likely not of significant importance as the company remains highly focused on acquiring additional Prime subscribers regardless of the type of device used.
Lenovo was one of the two vendors to grow in the 4Q16 and managed to gain 2.1 percentage points in 4Q16 over the same period in 2015. With a broad lineup and innovative designs, IDC expects this vendor will be ‘one to watch’ in 2017.
Outside of price, IDC says Huawei's value proposition is cellular connectivity and this was evidenced in their portfolio as the majority of their tablets offered built-in 3G or 4G connectivity.
To date, the Chinese company has done well in expanding their reach to Asian, European, and Middle Eastern markets, though their tablet presence in the U.S. is close to non-existent.