Tablet sales have boomed in recent years, going from strength to strength since Apple’s iPad hit (and redefined) the market. But if a recent report from IDC has it right, tablet sales could actually be reaching a point of saturation, at least for a handful of markets including the United States.
In its press release, IDC draws particular attention to year-over-year tablet market growth between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012, and Q4 2012 and Q4 2013. Though 2011–2012 saw a super huge increase in tablet sales of 87.1 percent, during the more recent 2012–2013 period, the tablet market continued to grow, but at a much lesser rate of 28.2 percent. If a similar decrease in growth is preserved, this coming year could see tablet shipments increase by just under 10 percent, signaling the end of the tablet’s long-celebrated golden period.
IDC analyst Tom Mainelli explained: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that markets such as the U.S. are reaching high levels of consumer saturation and while emerging markets continue to show strong growth this has not been enough to sustain the dramatic worldwide growth rates of years past.”
We expect commercial purchases of tablets to continue to accelerate in mature markets, but softness in the consumer segment - brought about by high penetration rates and increased competition for the consumer dollar - point to a more challenging environment for tablets in 2014 and beyond.
During the same Q4 2013 period, Apple shipped 26 million tablets, with sales being driven by its still-new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, both of which met well with holiday shoppers. Samsung, the second-largest tablet vendor for the period, sold 14.5 million tablets, and Amazon managed to shift a lesser 5.8 million units.
Though the tablet market might be shrinking at large, Apple’s tablet shipments nevertheless saw an increase this year. The 26 million tablets it shipped in Q4 2013 was up from 22.9 million in Q4 2012, and it represented the Cupertino, Calif. company’s most successful quarter on record. On the other hand, year-over-year growth for Apple stood at just 13.5 percent as of Q4 2013, and as IDC notes, this is well below the industry standard.
Apple needs to focus on sales “outside of its traditional mature-market strongholds” in order to improve on its growth over the coming year, IDC concludes. We’ll keep you updated with further information as we receive it.
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