FRAMINGHAM, MA – The worldwide tablet market declined 13.7% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2015, with 65.9 million units shipped, says the International Data Corp.
Total shipments for 2015 were 206.8 million, down 10.1% from 2014. However, shipments for detachable tablets reached an all-time high of 8.1 million devices.
The transition toward detachable devices appears to be in full swing, says IDC, as pure slate tablets experienced their greatest annual decline to date of 21.1%. On the other hand, detachable tablets more than doubled their shipments since the fourth quarter of last year.
"This quarter was unique as we had new detachables in the market from all three of the major platform players," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. "Despite lukewarm reviews, the iPad Pro was the clear winner this season, as it was the top selling detachable, surpassing notable entries from Microsoft and other PC vendors. It's also important to note the transition toward detachable tablets has presented positive opportunities for both Apple and Microsoft. However, Google's recent foray into this space has been rather lackluster, as the Android platform will require a lot more refinement to achieve any measurable success."
Perhaps the most interesting trend is prices on slate tablets have not yet hit rock bottom. Amazon’s $50 (or $42 for bulk shoppers) tablet was the holiday season's surprise hit, garnering the number 3 rank among the worldwide top 5, says IDC. Rival vendors like Huawei and Lenovo also continued to focus on the low end, while also expanding outside home country China.
"One of the biggest reasons why detachables are growing so fast is because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director, Tablets at IDC. "We believe Apple sold just over two million iPad Pros, while Microsoft sold around 1.6 million Surface devices, a majority of which were Surface Pro and not the more affordable Surface 3. With these results, it's clear that price is not the most important feature considered when acquiring a detachable – performance is."
Apple's reign as market leader continued in the fourth quarter, though the company faced a 24.8% year-over-year decline. With the successful launch of the iPad Pro, the company was able to curb the decline in iPad revenues as its model mix shifted toward higher priced iPads.
Samsung managed to keep its second position in the market, but it did decline by 18.1% compared to last year. Samsung is the vendor with the deepest tablet portfolio and manages to reach multiple price points and screen sizes, a position that will facilitate the transition to detachables in 2016, says the research firm.
Amazon's latest Kindle iteration piqued everyone's interest with its low price point, allowing Amazon's annual growth to reach 175.7%, the highest amongst the top 5. Amazon's success in the tablet market has thus far been based on price. While this bodes well during the holiday season, it's unlikely the Kindle's success will continue in the remainder of the year.
Lenovo maintained its market share, shipping 3.2 million units for a 13.5% decline over the same period last year. However, the Yoga, MIIX, and Thinkpad brands' combined traditional PC savoir faire should help Lenovo regain market share in 2016.
Huawei's focus remains on cellular-connected tablets and international expansion. The company has positioned itself well in the adjacent smartphone market, and its popularity is likely to bleed over into the tablet market.