Size matters as tablet sales rise

Global sales of tablets will grow this year for the first time in six years, one analyst firm predicts, with an increase in home usage meaning consumers are turning to larger-screen devices.

Sales will be up 1% in full-year 2020 to 160.8 million units, according to the latest forecast from Strategy Analytics. It’s a small increase; approximately 600,000 more devices compared with the 160.2 million shipped last year. But it is significant, given that the market has been slowly stagnating since 2014; it contracted by almost 13 million units in 2019, for example, according to earlier figures from the analyst firm.

The main driver of 2020 growth is, of course, the Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdown periods and other restrictions in many international markets. People spending more time at home for both work and leisure are more likely to be willing to spend on upgrading their technology, making sure there is a device per head in the household, and so forth, even against the backdrop of lower earnings and a looming global recession.

“Productivity is a key driver in these trends, but let’s face it: quarantine is boring and streaming video is always better on a larger screen,” said Eric Smith, Director – Connected Computing, at Strategy Analytics.

Indeed. Tablets with screen sizes in excess of 10 inches will account for the majority of shipments this year for the first time, accounting for 56% of the market. That figure will rise to 64% by 2025, according to the analysts.

The smaller tablet segment is feeling the pinch from larger smartphones and phablets. “Accordingly, tablet vendors have focused their portfolios on the 10″ to 13″ segment and notebook sizing has moved to 13″ and beyond for the most part,” Smith said. “In addition to the shift toward larger screen sizes, detachable tablet shipments have more than doubled from 17% tablet market share in 2017 to 40% in 2020.”

Market growth is also linked to home working and home schooling, with consumers increasingly acquiring tablets that allow for a keyboard to be attached. So-called detachable 2-in-1 devices – which include Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7, the Surface Pro 7 from Microsoft, and most current iPad models – will account for 40% of the market in 2020, up from 30% last year, rising to 40% by 2025.

“While tablet sales are likely to remain plateaued over the coming years, the trend towards devices which compete more seriously as notebook PC alternatives is likely to continue,” Strategy Analytics predicts.

All of which goes to show that when you’re stuck at home for long periods of time, size really does matter. (Depends what you do with it, surely – Ed)

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