Lengthening Life Puts Brakes on Tablet Growth

The worldwide tablet market will slow massively in 2014, falling to just 7.2% YoY growth – from 52.5% in 2013. IDC believes that the core reason for the slowdown is that 2014 will represent the first full year of declines in iPad shipments. Neither the market slowdown nor poor iPad result should come as a surprise – device life-cycles have been lengthening and tablet penetration has been rising for some time.

Ryan Reith, IDC programme director, said, “In the early stages of the tablet market, device life-cycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every two-to-three years. What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than three years and in some instances more than four years. We believe the two major drivers for longer-than-expected tablet life-cycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks”.

Significant advancements have been made by manufacturers to advance the hybrid product category. These models have become thinner, cheaper and more widely available. However, convertible shipments are only expected to reach 8.7 million units this year – 4% of the total tablet market. A large reason for this is consumer hesitancy towards Windows 8, which the majority of such products use.

“[R]ight now we see a lot of pressure on tablet prices and an influx of entry-level products, which ultimately serves Android really well”, said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets. However, “we also see tablet manufacturers trying to offset this price pressure by focusing on larger screens and cellular-enabled tablets”.

In the future, the tablet market could be affected by Windows 10; Google’s progress with Android and the Chrome OS; and Apple’s product line expansion.