Vendors must innovate to improve tablet sales

The "smartification" of products and homes will require tablet vendors to think carefully about their place in the technology ecosystem as a whole.

In 2011, the iPad was heralded as a disruptive force in the technology industry, expected to eclipse PC and laptop sales by 2015. Although Apple remains the leader in the tablet market, Apple’s market share has declined over the past few years. In fact, it’s not just Apple sales that are experiencing issues – Samsung and Amazon’s tablet sales are also in decline, and the UK tablet market has suffered a 37% drop in sales since 2014, and a 12% decrease in the average price per unit.

46% of users surveyed on their attitudes to tablets, said they would prefer to use a smartphone than a tablet when out of the house

One reason for this decline is the effect of cannabilizion from the iPhone and laptop markets. Despite tenacity from players, such as Apple, to create tablets compatible with productivity applications, they still lack the functionality needed to encourage users to switch permanently. 72% of consumers surveyed said they would prefer to use a laptop or desktop, as opposed to a tablet, for complicated tasks, such as creating or editing documents, photos or videos, proving a lack of appetite for change in this area.

To remain competitive and gain lost market share, manufacturers and retailers must consider the advantages of using the tablet inside the home, as well as outside of the domestic environment. Tablet’s portion of the market is essentially eroded on one aspect, by the laptop and its processing capabilities, and on another aspect, by the smartphone. With the introduction of the phablet, or larger screen smartphone, consumers are able to enjoy their usual phone use, reading articles, streaming media content and internet use, all on one simple device. 46% of users surveyed on their attitudes to tablets, said they would prefer to use a smartphone than a tablet when out of the house, illustrating the continued popularity of the smartphone as the preferred portable device.

Vendors and manufacturers must address the tablet’s impact on family life, when developing product and go-to-market plans. The middle-class family are a firmly established demographic for tablet sales, with 56% earning £50,000 and over as a household; the majority of respondents also married, at 51%.  Tablets need to demonstrate strong interoperability with other devices in the home, and looking towards the future, vendors should consider converged platform strategies and software development in order to differentiate.

In order to increase sales, manufacturers and retailers should also focus on developing popular aspects such as screen size, resolution and camera functionality, creating a stronger product that can compete for its place between PCs, laptops and phablets. The majority of respondents, at 54%, stated they owned tablets with a screen size of over 8.5 inches. Additionally, 68% stated that screen size would be the second most important feature for them when purchasing a tablet, after battery life, and ranking picture quality, fourth, at 42%. Tablets are increasingly used for gaming, streaming videos, other leisure activities around the home, and during group presentation settings in a business context. By focusing on improving the features most important to users, device vendors can improve stickiness, and give consumers a reason to upgrade.

Tablet sales also owe their decline to infrequent upgrade cycles. Lack of innovation in tablet design, or new features such as voice control, and screen resolution, mean that users are not encouraged to upgrade to newer models. Although 39% of respondents said they thought having two tablets in a household would be useful, 40% remain indifferent, proving that there is little propensity to uptake additional tablets within one family. Family members are sharing their tablets amongst themselves, and the frequency of software upgrades, particulary for the iOS models, keep the purchased products functioning well. In the coming years, manufacturers should focus on new features and innovation to encourage product upgrades and increase sales.

Over the next 10 years, screens will be omnipresent and fixed, with new wearable technologies disrupting the personal device market. Therefore, as we head towards a more intuitive smart environment, the role of the individual smartphone, tablet and laptop will be brought into question. If technology vendors wish to remain relevant, they must consider scalable hardware and software technologies, which can be quickly and easily incorporated according to consumer demand. Vendors and retailers, for example, home furniture retailers, will need to work collaboratively to ensure that each party benefits from the “smartification” of products, and the smart home opportunity. The wearables market will also demonstrate significant opportunity for technology vendors in terms of data collection, mapping out how consumers are using their products, and improving their user experience as a result. Long-term changes in the tablet market, and overall device market, will inevitably be centered around the consumer technology ecosystem as a whole. 

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