Skip to main content

Blame the Phablet? Tablet Sales Predicted to Slow by 2017

Tablets may be the PC industry’s biggest threat right now, but slate sales might not always be as lucrative as they are today. The IDC lowered its estimates for this year’s tablet shipments, and also predicts that the tablet market’s growth rate will shrink to single digits by 2017.

According to the research firm’s latest report, tablet shipments are expected to hit 221.3 million units by the end of 2013. This is less than the IDC’s original projection of 227.4 million shipments for the year, but is still 53.5 percent higher than slate shipments in 2012. While shipment growth is expected to slow to 22.2 percent year-over-year in 2014, this growth rate is slated to plummet into the single digits over the next few years, the IDC says.

MORE: Top Tablet Gifts

This can be partially attributed to the introduction of smartphones with increasingly large displays. Although smaller 7-inch tablets have proven popular as of late, the arrival of phones such as the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 and 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega pose a threat to this section of the market.

As the report notes, consumers who own a phone in the 6-inch display range are less likely to purchase a 7-inch tablet since there isn’t much of a difference in screen size. This could spark interest in roomier 10 inch tablets, such as the iPad Air or 2-in-1 laptop tablet Windows 8.1 hybrids.

This takes away part of the allure that comes with 7-inch tablets-- not only are they more compact, but they’re often cheaper too. A premium 7-inch slate such as the Google Nexus 7 costs around $230, while a high-end 10-inch tablet such as the iPad or Microsoft Surface will start in the $450 to $500 range.

“For months, Microsoft and Intel have been promising more affordable Windows tablets,” Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst, Worldwide Tablet Tracker, said in the report. Urbani also notes that companies such as Dell, Lenovo and HP are missing out on holiday season sales since some of their new devices haven’t hit widespread availability yet.

The IDC’s report comes just as rumors are swirling that Apple and Samsung plan to release tablets with unusually large displays. Last month a Samsung tablet with a 12-inch screen and a stylus hit the FCC, adding to speculation that a 12-inch Galaxy Note is in tow. Reports have also suggested that Apple will launch a 12.9-inch iPad in 2014, although these notions remain in the rumor mill for now.