Tablet market continues to sag, researcher says

The worldwide tablet market continues its slow decline, and the biggest players are dropping fastest, according to the International Data Corporation.

Paula Vasan Former Associate Editor
Paula is an associate editor at CNET News, based in the New York City bureau.
Paula Vasan
2 min read

As the global tablet market continues to decline, Apple is losing share in the overall market. Screenshot by CNET

Tablets are continuing to lose their allure.

Marked by little hardware innovation and limited upgrades, the tablet market declined seven percent year over year as of the second quarter, the International Data Corporation (IDC) said.

Global tablet shipments totaled 44.7 million units for the second quarter compared to 48 million the same period last year, according to data from the research firm's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker.

Tablet sales have been erratic over the past several quarters amid tougher competition and market saturation. Shipments of Apple's tablets, including the larger-screen iPad and the iPad Mini, have declined 26 percent compared to the second quarter of 2013, said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director of tablets at IDC. And many analysts have been left to wonder whether the days of tablet growth are over.

"Longer life cycles, increased competition from other categories such as larger smartphones, combined with the fact that end users can install the latest operating systems on their older tablets has stifled the initial enthusiasm for these devices in the consumer market," said Jistesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, in a statement.

Amid lackluster tablet sales, Apple maintained its lead in the worldwide tablet market, amassing a 24.5 percent market share and shipping 10.9 million units in the second quarter.

Samsung held its No. 2 position in the market with 7.6 million units shipped and 17 percent market share in the second quarter of 2015. Lenovo maintained its No. 3 position with 2.5 million units and 5.7 percent share of the market. LG and Huawei ended the quarter in a statistical tie for fourth place, rounding out the top five with each shipping 1.6 million devices.

The numbers reflect a slow shift in the landscape of the top tablet vendors, as Apple and Samsung -- with a combined 41.5 percent market share at the end of the second quarter compared to 65.7 percent the previous year -- lose market share to smaller players, namely Lenovo, Huawei and LG Electronics. Bouchard said smaller vendors are doing a better job of addressing smaller pockets of demand, with LG addressing the demand for connected tablets and E FUN addressing the need for more affordable tablets.

But there's still hope for vendors of all sizes to regain some lost ground, Ubrani said. "With newer form factors like 2-in-1s, and added productivity-enabling features like those highlighted in iOS9, vendors should be able to bring new vitality to a market that has lost its momentum," he said.

And how will Microsoft's new Windows 10 software factor into the 2-in-1 space?

Demand in the 2-in-1 space has been weak as the product offering was limited across Windows 8 and other platforms, according to Bouchard. But he said Windows 10 will help the 2-in-1 space, spurring Microsoft licenses to start producing 2-in-1s running Windows. "With more devices there will be more competition, prices will go down, demand will increase."