That’s according to market research firm International Data Corp. which released its fourth-quarter tablet market forecast, which showed Apple Inc. (AAPL) remained in the top spot with Samsung now in the third place thanks to Amazon. All told, the worldwide detachable tablet market grew to 6.5 million units in the fourth quarter, which marks a 10.3% increase year-over-year. Tablet sales were up 1.6% from all of 2017, which is a lot lower than the 24% growth the market saw in 2016. IDC said that some of the sluggishness was due to delays in new devices that kept buyers on the sidelines.
"To date, much of the trajectory of the detachable market has been attributed to Microsoft and Apple pushing their wares in the U.S.," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers in a press release announcing the results. "However, continued success of this category hinges on the willingness of other PC vendors to participate and more importantly, consumers from other countries to adopt the new form factor over convertible PCs." Excluding detachable tables, the market shipped 43.1 million units during the fourth quarter and 141.7 million for the year. The non-detachable devices are more a consumer play and are increasingly being used for media consumption rather for work. Some of the vendors are using the lower cost tablets to lure customers to other products and services within their ecosystem. (See also: Apple to Use Intel Chips Exclusively for Next iPhone: KGI.)
Low Prices vs. High-End Focus
According to IDC, Amazon’s second-place showing was due to its move to slash prices on its tablets for the holiday season. Its cheap tablets have also become popular with consumers who use them as a digital shopping catalog for Amazon’s eCommerce platform. Amazon also includes Alexa, its voice-activated digital assistant, in the tablets and is launching in new markets, which is driving demand. Meanwhile, Samsung is seeing shipments of its detachable tablets increase, but the gains were hurt by declines in demand for its slate-type tablets. Apple kept up its lead in both lower-end iPads and its newer updated ones.
Looking out to 2018, IDC is optimistic that growth will pick up as new models come to the market. There’s also easy comparisons given lackluster sales of tablets in the last quarter of 2016 and the first half of 2017. (See also: Consumer Tech Sales to Reach $351B in 2018: CTA.)
"With the first wave of Windows on ARM products expected to begin shipping in the second quarter of 2018, we believe the detachables category has the potential to continue its growth trajectory. Many of these products are being introduced at the premium end of the market. What remains glaringly sparse, and needed, are strong players in the mid-segment of the market," said Lauren Guenveur, senior research analyst for IDC's Devices and Displays team, in the release.