IDC: Large Screen Phones and Delayed Tablet Purchases Slow Tablet Market

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IDC has reported Q1 shipment numbers for tablets worldwide and noted that, in its analysis, the rise of larger screen smartphones and a longer upgrade cycle by consumers for a new tablet contributed to a weaker than expected quarter.

First, here is the data that IDC published.

Source: IDC

There are some interesting things to note in this report, both for what was said and what was left unsaid. (Note that IDC lumps 2-in-1 tablets with regular tablets. Apple doesn't sell a 2-in-1.)

1. Tablet growth, worldwide, for the first calendar quarter is up only 3.9 percent year over year.

2. The companies with lowest historical shipments have tended to grow the most. Except for Amazon and Asus.

3. Amazon's tablet shipments were down 47 percent year over year. Amazon, despite its bold advertising claims, only sold a million tablets in Q1.

4. Apple remained the single largest shipper of tablets despite the kerfuffle over iPad shipments/sales after Apple's recent earnings report.

5. Samsung has grown its worldwide market share for the first quarter, but cumulative shipments to date were not reported.

6. Customers, according to IDC, are holding onto their tablets longer. This may represent a maturing of the contemporary tablet design and may be driving the relatively long period between new iPad releases and account for Apple's recent iPad sales plateau.

7. IDC doesn't typically report cumulative sales or total market share to date for all tablets. For example, Apple has sold 211 million iPads since the product launched.

Looking at year over year growth for the post holiday quarter is a somewhat narrow perspective on the tablet market as a whole, over time. The larger picture is not presented in this report.

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Given the fact that customers are holding onto their tablets longer, it may not make sense for Apple to introduce a new  9.7-inch iPad Air with only modest feature improvements. Also, if larger screen smartphones are indeed cannibalizing tablet sales, the market for a 12.x-inch tablet with more capabilities as a PC alternative may open up.

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Can we rely on these iDC numbers? Did IDC just accept each manufacturers numbers? Or were they independently verified?

John Martellaro

Here’s one way to look at it. I’ve heard Tim Cook quote IDC numbers during earnings reports. If Mr. Cook didn’t like IDC’s methodology, he wouldn’t cite them as an authority.


Larger phone screens, speaking from experience, are wonderful, but I don’t find it a substitute for my iPad…..  But the longer Apple delays their large screens the more market share they will lose in the Phone space…  The other benefit I discovered when I went from years of iPhone use to the Note 2 was the joy of having an easily replaceable battery.  Also enjoy the freedom to really customize the phone to the way I like it….  Something Apple doesn’t allow.  The downside is that because of the adversarial relationship between Samsung & Apple the two systems do not play well together.  Time for Apple to create some compelling products to regain the luster….

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