The tablet, as mobile computing device, has become a “nice to have” a development represented in the 2015 shipment numbers from manufacturers.
The latest report on device shipment from ICT consulting firm, Gartner, shows tablets losing some steam alongside personal computers while the mobile is keeping up growth speed.
The Gartner report noted that “The tablet has become a ‘nice to have’ device, and there is no real need for an upgrade as regularly as for the phone.”
“Ultramobile shipments are estimated to total 214 million units in 2015, a decline of 5.3 per cent year on year. Tablets will account for 207 million units, a decline of 5.9 per cent from 2014.”
Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, said “The tablet market is hit by fewer new buyers, extended life cycles and little innovation to encourage new purchases.
“At the same time, the value of a smartwatch for the average user is still not compelling enough and the impact of these wearables on tablet purchases remains negligible.”
Gartner analysts also witness users relying more on their smartphones as functionality increases and screen size standardises at 5 inches. This is affecting the appeal of smaller tablets in markets such as Western Europe and North America, beyond Asia.
As a result, Gartner has extended the average lifetime of the tablet to three years by 2016.
“We also expect the tablet market to reach a penetration close to 50 per cent of households in mature markets by 2016, which is soon,” said Cozza.
The report also noted that the worldwide combined shipments of devices (PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones) are expected to reach 2.5 billion units in 2015, a 1.5 per cent increase from 2014 and down from the previous quarter’s forecast of 2.8 per cent growth.
End-user spending on devices will total $606 billion in 2015 and will show, for the first time since 2010, a 5.7 per cent decline in current US dollars.
“Our forecast for unit shipment growth for all devices in 2015 has dropped by 1.3 percentage points from last quarter’s estimate,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “This was partly due to a continued slowdown in PC purchases in Western Europe, Russia and Japan in particular, largely due to price increases resulting from local currency devaluation against the dollar.”
The only market that continues to show growth is the mobile phone market where, in contrast, prices continue to fall. The emerging markets are driving the smartphone market upward, with China leading the way.
The trend painted by Gatrner is visible in South Africa and across the continent via increased take-up of smartphones. Major telecommunication players Vodacom and MTN are reporting rocketing smartphone sales.