Tablet users expected to soar past 1 billion, but growth will slow

Nearly 15 percent of people around the world will use a tablet this year. But growth in the number of users is expected to drop dramatically, says research firm eMarketer.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

China will be home to the largest number of tablet users this year, with the US in second place. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

More than 1 billion people throughout the world will use a tablet this year, predicts a report from eMarketer.

In a study released Thursday, the research firm projected that almost 15 percent of people worldwide will use a tablet in 2015, more than double the percentage from three years ago. The number of tablet users will rise from 1 billion this year to 1.06 billion in 2016 and 1.43 billion by 2018.

For the study, the company defined tablet users as "individuals of any age who use a tablet at least once per month."

Despite the rise in users, the overall growth will drop this year and over the next few years, according to the study. The reason? Currently, there's an "abundance" in the number of users in developed markets, and emerging markets aren't "expected to pick up much slack," eMarketer said.

Tablets are facing greater competition from big-screen smartphones, aka phablets, as well as other connected devices. Tablet owners are holding onto their devices longer and sharing them with family members, reducing the need to buy new ones. eMarketer also chimed in on some of the factors affecting tablet growth.

"The shared nature of tablets and increased competition from other connected devices reduce the likelihood that the tablet audience will match the size of the smartphone audience worldwide," eMarketer senior analyst Cathy Boyle said in the study. "The most limiting factor is the use case for a tablet: It is not as clear-cut or compelling as a communication tool -- the core capability and use case for a smartphone."

Growth in tablet users is forecast to drop from 29 percent last year to 17 percent this year, followed by 13.3 percent in 2016, 10 percent in 2017 and 7.9 percent in 2018.

Across the globe, China will be home to the largest number of tablet users this year, with more than 328 million people using their devices at least once a month, according to eMarketer. The US will take second place with 156 million tablet users in 2015.

eMarketer said it bases its information and forecasts on data from various research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports.