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Tablets Had A Bad Year

Overall tablet market declined 10% in 2015, but there is a ray of hope.

[Photo: Flickr user Maurizio Pesce]

Tablets had a rough 2015, according to the latest numbers from IDC and Strategy Analytics. In the calendar year that just ended, the tablet market was down by as much as 10.1%, with an estimated 206.8 million tablets shipped last year, says IDC. That’s down from 230.1 million shipped in 2014. Things are a bit better (but still not great) if you go by Strategy Analytics' numbers, which say 224.3 million tablets were shipped in 2015 compared to 242.2 million in 2014—a decline of only 8.1%.

As TechCrunch points out, the differences in each firm's numbers can be attributed to how they go about estimating market size and sales figures. No matter what, though, each say the tablet market sank a good amount. Both firms also agreed on who the biggest losers were as far as overall sales declines. IDC says ASUS saw a 39.9% decline in sales for 2015, while iPad maker Apple saw sales drop 21.8%, and Samsung saw a drop of 16.1%.

The good news for Apple is that it has retained its #1 spot as leader in tablet sales with a 24% share of the tablet market. Samsung comes second with a 16.2% market share, followed by Lenovo, ASUS, and Huawei all in the single digits. An interesting note when looking at only quarterly sales is that Amazon had an amazing Q42015. Its tablet sales rose 175% versus Q42014 thanks to its cheap $50 Fire tablet.

There was some other good news for the tablet market as a whole too. While slate tablets like the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface saw sales declines, detachable tablets that are designed to work as desktop replacements, like the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro, saw a ton of growth. IDC says detachables doubled their shipments in 2015 while Strategy Analytics says detachable sales were up 379%.

"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, IDC’s research director for tablets. "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."

But while Apple and Microsoft were the clear winners—if the tablet market could be said to have "winners" in 2015—IDC says Android maker Google has a lot of catching up to do. "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," said Jitesh Ubrani, IDC’s senior research analyst.

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