Tablet shipments below pre-pandemic levels, but iPad still rules

Global tablet shipments are now below pre-pandemic levels, says a new market intelligence report, as part of a “severe” cutback in consumer spending.

Apple wasn’t immune to this, with Q1 shipments falling 17% year-on-year, but the data shows the iPad still remains unchallenged as the market leader, in both the short and long term…

Tablet shipments now below pre-pandemic levels

The headline news here isn’t good.

Everyone knew that the pandemic dramatically boosted demand for tablets and laptops in both consumer and business markets, as people worked from home and sought home-based entertainment during lockdowns. It was of course inevitable that this demand would return to normal levels in time.

But shipments falling below pre-pandemic levels – canceling out the normal growth we would have expected over the past few years without COVID-19 – is news.

Canalys reports that tablet shipments fell 18% globally, with iPad shipments faring slightly better.

Tablet shipments fell below pre-pandemic levels with an 18% decline […] in the first quarter of 2023 to 31.7 million units […]

“A drop in demand for tablets after the holidays is always expected, but the cutback in consumer spending amid high inflation has been severe this time around,” said Himani Mukka, Research Manager at Canalys. “In addition, there is a more structural correction as the massive demand drivers during the pandemic largely wear off.”

iPad shipments fell 17% year-on-year, from 14.9M in Q1 2022 to 12.4M in the same quarter this year.

Apple remains unchallenged

However, Apple’s dominance of the tablet market remains unchallenged, in both the short term and long term.

Apple remained top of the worldwide tablet market with 12.4 million units shipped, for a 17% year-on-year decline. A strong push to fill the channel in the previous quarter and a lack of new launches in Q1 led to a relatively muted quarter for iPads.

A graph depicting brand performance across time shows that Apple remains the undisputed market leader, despite its contraction.

Apple’s future looks good

The large installed base of iPads points to strong upgrade opportunities for Apple in particular.

The global installed base of tablets grew massively over the last two years, so there are significant opportunities to move users up the value chain with future upgrades. Vendors have started showcasing products that deliver more premium user experiences, whether through chipset innovation, better displays for content consumption or improved productivity functions.

Reinforcing the importance of the tablet within an ecosystem of interoperable devices will also be important to maintain momentum from the trend of hybrid work styles.

14- and 16-inch iPads ahead

One thing guaranteed to boost iPad upgrades is the launch of larger models, given significant pent-up demand for these. Almost half of you have been waiting for this since at least 2018.

When we ran a poll back in 2018, almost half of you thought Apple should make a larger model. Getting more specific, even more wanted either a 14- or 16-inch iPad.

Back when developer Steven Troughton-Smith made the case for a 14.9-inch iPad Pro, I said that I could see the appeal in a laptop-sized screen, and I feel the same way about a 16-inch one today.

We will, however, probably have to wait until next year for these.

Photo: Daniel Romero/Unsplash

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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