Small tablets are colliding with large smartphones, with tablets in general coming out the loser, according to market researcher NPD DisplaySearch.
Global shipments of tablets -- which DisplaySearch calls "tablet PCs" -- declined year to year for the first time in the first quarter of 2014, DisplaySearch said on Wednesday. The research firm did not break out specific year-to-year numbers, however.
"Competition between 5.5 [inch] and larger smartphones and 7 - 7.9 [inch] tablet PCs will reduce demand for tablet PCs through 2018," said Hisakazu Torii, a DisplaySearch analyst in a statement.
The "unit share" for tablets between 7 and 7.9 inches peaked at 58 percent in 2013, but "will gradually decline in 2014 and beyond," Torii said.
Though DisplaySearch mentions no specific tablet by brand name, the 7.9-inch size is dominated by Apple's iPad Mini, while 7-inch models include Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7.
Apple is expected to bring out a 5.5-inch phablet, aka large smartphone, later this year. Samsung already has an arsenal of phablets that it is selling, including the 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega and 5.7-inch Galaxy Note.
As the market for smaller tablets shrinks, tablet suppliers will move to larger sizes, with shipments of models ranging from 8 inches up to 10.9 inches overtaking smaller 7-inch-class models by 2018, DisplaySearch said.
"In addition...11 [inch] and larger tablets will exceed 10% of the market by 2018," the research firm said.