Apple waited for three years to dive into the phablet market while allowing Samsung to rack up big sales with devices featuring jumbo screen sizes. This fall, the iPhone finally jumped into the ring with two new variants boasting large displays. Perhaps the biggest question in the consumer electronics market this winter is what happens to the tablet market now.
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The sudden deceleration of tablet sales growth between 2013 and 2014 has been a stunner — after all, the modern tablet market was born in 2010 and almost all industry experts anticipated the product category to deliver double-digit sales growth for years to come. Now it looks like tablet unit volume growth may have turned into actual decline in North America already by the second half of 2014.
The first snapshot of the Christmas device market is offered by Flurry and it’s an astonishingly grim read for tablet vendors.
Flurry examines data from more than 600,000 apps to get a sense of both application and device market trends and in the week leading up to Christmas, full-sized tablets represented only 11% of mobile devices activated in America. This is down sharply from the 17% share this category held just last year.
Another shocker here is that the share of small tablets also slipped from last year and is now down to 11%. Some had expected that ultra-cheap, small tablets might at least slow down the decay of the tablet market.
All told, the combined share of regular and small tablets seems to have slipped from 29% to just 22% of the mobile devices sold before Christmas. At the same time, the share of the phablet category exploded from 4% to 13%. Weirdly, regular-sized phones lost very little ground and slipped from 64% to 63% of device activations.
This seems to imply that nearly all the sales gains that Apple’s new, large iPhones have made were stripped from the hide of the tablet market. Consumers happy with compact smartphones are not switching to larger iPhones for now, but former tablet buyers are. This could mean that assumptions about the size of the tablet market 3 to 5 years into the future may be completely false — the tablet industry may already be shriveling up, much like e-books a few years ago.