Research firm IDC says tablet makers shipped about 39.6 million units in the first quarter of 2016… which sounds like a lot of tablets until you realize that the number for the same period in 2015 was 46.4 million.
In other words, overall tablet shipments are down by nearly 15 percent.
But as expected, IDC did see growth in one area: 2-in-1 tablets, also sometimes called detachables.
Of course, not everyone agrees on the exact definitions of tablets, detachables, and other relevant terms. For instance IDC’s latest report on tablet shipments shows massive growth from Amazon… but that’s at least partially because the firm doesn’t count the Fire HD 6 as a tablet, because it has a 6 inch screen, which puts t outside of IDC’s definition of a tablet.
Likewise, IDC considers the iPad Pro to be a 2-in-1 tablet because Apple offers an optional keyboard. But if you buy the tablet without the keyboard, it’s kind of just a 1 in 1.
Of course, you could make the same case about the Microsoft Surface line of tablets, since Microsoft charges extra for its keyboard covers as well. But Microsoft Surface tablets run the same software that you get on Windows notebooks, which means that if you do add a keyboard, you’ve effectively got a laptop and a tablet. It feels weird to me to call the iPad Pro a 2-in-1 since it does not run the same operating system as Apple’s laptops… but I guess you could argue that iOS is becoming more of a laptop-friendly operating system. Maybe.
Or maybe I’m just nitpicking… IDC does consistently use the word “detachable” instead of the phrase “2-in-1.”
Anyway, according to IDC, Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, and Huawei were the top tablet vendors in the first quarter of 2016. But among those companies, only Amazon and Huawei actually shipped more tablets than they had a year earlier.
Apple, Samsung, and Lenovo all shipped fewer units than they had during the same period in 2015. IDC figures that at least one reason tablet shipments have slowed is that the market is somewhat saturated: for example the company predicts that most future iPad buyers will be replacing older iPads or PCs rather than buying a new iPad for the first time.