The global tablet market shot up in the fourth quarter of 2020 by 19.5 percent year-on-year to 52.2 million units, according to a research report. The market, propelled by demand amid pandemic lockdowns, has not seen these levels since the fourth quarter of 2017, when the total was 49.9 million.
The shipment of detachable tablets jumped 27.9 percent, driven by Microsoft and Apple products, as well as by consumers purchasing tablets due to backlogs in orders for PCs.
Apple once again led the charge, with an unchanged market share of 36.5 percent and shipments rising 19.5 percent to 19 million units. Samsung retained second place, lifting its share of the market to 19.4 percent from 16 percent, and advancing shipments by 44.9 percent to 10.0 million. Full-year shipments went to 31.3 million units.
Until recently the tablet market was looking weak, as the increasing sophistication and size of smartphones militated against them. Further, it seemed as if tablets were trapped in an uncomfortable middle ground between the laptop and the smartphone, failing to equal either on its own terms.
Now, however, according to the present study, the global tablet market has grown for the first time in three years, and by quite a lot—nearly 20 percent year-on year. This growth is attributed almost entirely to the pandemic, which has imposed new conditions on mobile users. Presumably, because the Covid-19 restrictions have caused huge numbers of users to stay home, the tablet has come to be more attractive because the users do not need to be able to place the device in their pockets, as with a smartphone while on the move. The very in-between quality of the tablet that formerly made it less attractive is now likely making it more attractive; it is more portable than a laptop and therefore can be carried from place to place within a residence, but it is also larger than a smartphone and therefore provides a more immersive and graphically rich experience, especially for entertainment purposes such as streaming and gaming. In addition, it is likely that children doing remote schooling may benefit from using tablets.
How long the trend will continue is, of course, not possible to say, but mobile operators will want to seriously consider the extent to which they want to create new plans specifically targeted to tablets. Operators stand to benefit from both tariff revenue and actual tablet sales—and special tablet plans help sell the devices themselves. The increased interest in tablets could well survive the pandemic if the habit takes hold, but even if it does not, the pandemic and its associated lockdowns could go on long enough to make a move toward tablet-based plans a valid strategy for operators.