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The COVID gravy train for tablets is over; slate shipments expected to decline through 2025


As we’ve mentioned several times, 2020 saw a huge turnaround in the tablet market. Sales of these devices have been declining over the years as larger-screened phones make owning a slate more of a redundancy. But something came along last year that changed the dynamics of the tablet market: COVID-19. Suddenly, tablets became hot as people used them to work from home and kids used them to virtually attend classes. And at the end of the day, these devices delivered streaming video, music, games and other forms of entertainment.

IDC reports that the Apple iPad remained the top tablet with 53.2 million units shipped last year, up from 49.9 million during 2019. Despite that growth, the iPad’s market share dropped from 34.6% to 32.5% last year. Samsung finished second last year shipping 31.3  million slates for a solid increase of  44%; the manufacturer finished 2020 with a market share of 19.1% and shipped the first tablet to support 5G connectivity, the Galaxy Tab S6. Huawei was third after delivering 16 million slates in 2020, up 8.1% on an annual basis; the beleaguered company owned 9.8% of the global tablet market last year. Lenovo was fourth and saw its tablet shipments increase a whopping 66% last year. The increase in deliveries took the Chinese manufacturer’s market share of the tablet market from 5.9% in 2019 to 8.6% last year.

We first noticed during Apple’s quarterly reports early last year that demand for iPads was rising. For all of fiscal 2020 (which ended at the end of last October), iPad revenue grew over 11% with a 41% year-over-year increase for the first quarter of fiscal 2021. The entire global tablet market in 2020 added up to $39.91 billion, topping the previous year’s figures by a tad. Back in 2016, the tablet market generated revenue of $44.6 billion before sliding down to $39.8 billion in 2019. Aksjebloggen cites an estimate from Statista that calls for worldwide tablet sales to drop 5.9% this year to $37.5 billion. Global tablet revenue is forecast to decline to $34.3 billion by 2025.

While it might not be the world’s largest smartphone market, the United States is the largest tablet market in the world. After reaching $10 billion in tablet sales in the U.S. last year, that figure is estimated to drop to $9.5 billion this year. And in China, tablet revenue is expected to drop 3% this year to $5.4 billion. Japan will see the biggest decline of any country with a 9.5% drop to $2.5 billion.

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