back to article What upgrade cycle? Tablet sales crater for fourth straight quarter

Global shipments of tablets have fallen for the fourth successive quarter, according to data from analyst house IDC. In the third quarter of 2015, manufacturers shipped 48.7 million fondleslabs worldwide, down 12.6 per cent year on year. IDC estimates that there are 581.9 million tablets in the world, but that sales growth is …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "the market appears to be in transition."

    Maybe the word they were looking for is "mature" or maybe "saturated".

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      It's more than that. If the stats are correct, sales are one twelfth the current worldwide count of tablets. Nobody seriously believes a tablet lasts 12 years, so tablets in use are going to decline, if they're not already.

      Either that, or there's going to be a huge bump in sales in a year or two.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "sales are one twelfth the current worldwide count of tablets"

        "sales are in the 3rd quarter 2015 are one twelfth the current worldwide count of tablets

    2. Mikel

      Poor Windows

      Didn't get their OS installed in the first wave. Now it will be much harder to win back the lost customer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poor Windows

        If you sell Rubik's cubes you've got to expect the fashion to pass........

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          in the 3rd quarter 2015 are one twelft

          ouch, sorry, my bad maths. If we annualise the sales figures (bit dubious due to Christmas bump), gives use a 3 year cycle. Not bad, but not the sign of a growing market.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    Who'd have thought!?

  3. toughluck

    Oh, but just you wait, tablets are going to replace laptops reeeally soon now.

    1. AceRimmer

      And then it will be the year of the Linux Desktop

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Said people every year since 2010.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've only had my Nook HD, that I put CyanogenMod on after only a month, for almost 2 years. I don't plan on replacing it until it dies.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      My Nexus 7 is three years old.

      Cyanogen mod (free) and a new charging port (very cheap) and it's doing everything that it's supposed to - barring some catastrophic accident, why would I buy a new one?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Uncle Ron

        Re: My Nexus 7 is three years old.

        I just looked at the Cyanogenmod pages and I am NOT a candidate. I feel it is unbelievably complicated and convoluted. If you are a "civilian" this stuff is NOT for you. I'm not a programmer or a "hacker" or even a computer hobbyist. I'm just a semi-advanced user. There are offerings in Cyanogenmod for both of the Android devices I have (Nexus 7 2012 and HTC Evo 4G) so, GREAT. But, there's no way I can do this. There are just too many steps and too many places to go haywire and too many places to make an error and get bricked. Also, despite the great work these folks are doing, and the great writing they're doing to make things understandable for dopes like me, it's still not good enough. Too many terms I don't understand.

        My 2012 Nexus 7 is still very, very good. However, Google decided -not- to support Marshmallow on it. Their support ends with the 2013 '7--and they've said M'mallow is the last upgrade for it. The reason I bought the Nexus 7 was to get a device directly from Android Central, without all the bloatware and forking of the other guys. But the SW is end-of-life and I'm screwed. I'm sure there's no technical reason, they just don't want to support a 3-4 year old device anymore. (They'll still do security updates--but they're not doing much of that anyway.) I don't think a couple/3 years is long enough. A perfectly beautiful, high-quality, high-performance, beautiful screen device is now obsolete.

        So, I believe the mfg strategy across the board is to just stop supporting devices after a few years and make you buy a new one. My HTC phone is still terrific, but HTC's support for it ended with, I think, Android 2.4. Lots of apps don't run, and Sprint's new Spark network is dark on it. No more 4G LTE. It stinks.

        1. Lamont Cranston

          Re: I am NOT a candidate.

          A nose around the XDADevelopers forum can usually turn up some fool-proof instructions, but I'd agree that the CyanogenMod site generally presumes a level of prior knowledge. Still, it's a lot easier than you'd think, and well worth a go - if you're considering chucking the device out, you've nothing to lose!

  5. Charles Manning

    They're ALL saturated

    There was a time, maybe until 10 years back, when it was worth upgrading desktops, laptops and all tech tat every 18-24 months because the stuff was getting faster/bigger/brighter/lighter and there was benefit in getting a new one.

    But once you have a dual core (each two threads), a TB hard drive in a laptop and the screen size is pretty static, where's the motivation to get a new one. The upgrade just is not worth it.

    So they bring out a new form factor: tablets. Those that feel they must have a tablet buy one. There's no motivation to buy a new one.

    So nobody is motivated to buy new stuff, so the bottom falls out of sales.

    The computer industry should count themselves lucky they had such a long run. The same happens everywhere: cars, TVs,....

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Ok, cool.

    Now can we please kick the arse of webdesigners to redesign websites back to their former un-tabletized versions because the current ones are offensive and stupid with their huge background images and JavaScript scroll magic. And I specifically include the "new" El Reg look.

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: Ok, cool.

      Speaking from a web development perspective I couldn't agree more.

      I remember we in the industry spent years proselytising Firefox and installing it on the computers of all and sundry to force Microsoft to bring IE into line with the W3C standards, because every website had to be developed twice: once for W3C, and again for IE, which doubled the time and cost of development.

      We eventually won that battle, and there were a brief, glorious few halcyon years where we could design a website ONCE under W3C and it would work everywhere. It was a truly joyous time.

      And then Apple and Samsung came along and fucked it all up by shoving fondleslabs and smartphones in everyone's faces. At first it was a non-issue; but a few years ago mobile/slab traffic became significant enough to warrant being factored into the design specs.

      Which took us straight back to the bad old W3C vs IE days: we went back to having to design every website twice again, this time one for desktop and one for mobiles. Grrrrrrrrr!

      No wonder I have hardly any hair left, and what there is has gone gray!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Steven

        May your grey hair be a crown of beauty and honour. Why? Because you design both websites.

        Nothing worse for me to be browsing on a PC and forced onto a Tablet style website. Makes it really hard for some of us to read and process and navigate too. So have one on us!

      2. dogged

        Re: Ok, cool.

        Don't forget the abomination that is webkit-

  7. Philip Lewis

    What me! Upgrade?

    And there we have it. 2 iPads in this family, an iPad2, still going strong and an Air2. Needless to say, the iPad2 was "handed down" the family tree. (the one Android tablet I had was consigned to the dustbin almost instantly - it was truly horrible)

    The issue for tablet sales is the upgrade cycle. We long ago passed the point where there were compelling reasons to upgrade every couple of years. The use cases haven't changed much, and I hadn't noticed too many apps that "required" me to upgrade before I did so for other reasons.

    I guess everyone who wants one has one, and the upgrade cycle is about 4-5 years (or accidental destruction) whichever comes first.

    Still, USD 4B in quarterly sales (for Apple) is hardly a failure, so I don't think they are all that concerned at this point.

    1. qwarty

      Re: What me! Upgrade?

      Its remarkable that a one product company can be so hugely successful as Apple has been with the iPhone. Its a risky business nevertheless and Apple has been very reliant on the US carriers in particular caring more about Apples profits than their own (apparently).

      OK, Apple has its PC and tablet products too but seeing this part of their business shrinking must be a big concern knowing the phone business can't continue to grow at recent levels forever and only needs some combination of events to push it into decline.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Darn, The industry was hoping we would be so enthralled we'd fork out the big money to buy nicer tablets, while we were hoping to get even nicer tablets for £65 by waiting for others to fork out a lot more. Now they have stopped buying.

    Back to the planning phase.

  9. x 7

    ""We believe the traditional slate tablet has a place in the personal computing world"

    well that technology date from around 1000BC. Who knew the ancients were that clever?

    More seriously, whoever was the idiot who said that, he needs sacking

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Actually a slate tablet would be a nice upgrade from the throwaway paper notepads I use to keep track of what really needs doing in my webdev projects. All my Nexus tablet is good for is El Reg, Netflix when it works, and testing the obnoxious mobile versions of said projects on an old version of Android.

  10. Jim O'Reilly

    Winter is Here!

    Apple isn't immune! As a model of what is happening, the hype-driven upgrade cycle drove PCs for a while, then crashed as the models tended to blur into each other and no longer offered incremental value.

    Tablet sales decline follows the same path, with the added pain of being a much more reliable product and of being ousted by smartphones somewhat.

    Pressure on the phone space is coming from cheaper phones with identical features, while iPhone innovation has essentially stalled (gold colored cases don't count!). Prediction is that Apple will struggle a bit next year.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Winter is Here!


      Prediction is that Apple will struggle a bit next year.

      Apple is Doomed. Seems to be trotted out every quarter but this time I think that they will be as quoted 'starting to struggle' this time next year. Perhaps their iCar (will it Fly?) might save the day.

      Looking at it objectively, if Apple are going to struggle then what about the rest of the market?

      Time to examine your share portfolio perhaps?

  11. Vince

    The only reason "Smartphones" as we now call them are still selling so well is that a considerable number of people get them on a contract where they're "Free" (which of course really means "spread cost purchase" and maybe "Subsidised"), and thus it makes a self-managing routine of rinse and repeat.

    It's not quite the same with laptops, tablets and so on. My Motorola Xoom was purchased not long after they came out (early 2011 apparently according to Wikipedia). I still use it a few times a week - mostly to watch TV via Slingbox), and have no interest in replacing it - when it dies, I *might* replace it, or I might find another on ebay since I've got the docks and accessories for it already, and I can't imagine I'm the only one that just doesn't see any reason to upgrade it at all... I assumed this was pretty obvious but it seems it's taking the manufacturers of the tablet market a while to cotton on.

    Or did they really think we will all replace laptop AND tablet AND phone and so on every year or two... REALLY?

    Seems bloody obvious to me that was never gonna happen.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, fiddlesticks!

    It's the economy--STUPID! We are now slip, slip sliding into a real live depression, boys and girls.

  13. Ol'Peculier

    I'm still using my Playbook almost 4 years after buying it (for next to nothing). It's a well travelled little gadget, although it's really only used for video. Yes, it's shite for everything else, it's heavy compared to modern tablets but until it dies I see no reason at all in splashing out cash just for the sake of it.

  14. topologicalanomaly4747

    List of shame

    Boy I'd wish there was a list somewhere with all the tech analysts and tech journalists who sang the end of laptops and desktops just a few years ago.

    I say now what I said before. By 2007 PCs got "good enough" that most people skipped that upgrade cycle (and maybe they still use those systems today - a core duo with 4gb ram is as good today for email/browsing/movies as it was than) leaving them with funds to throw towards a tablet. How many of those are buying a new one? Probably the ones who bouht the 1.0 version of whatever (ipad 1, etc.) if they feel the need for a device to leave on the coffe table/night stand.

    The day when nobody had one and everybody wanted one passed and people returned to buying laptops and desktops for work and cheap 50-200$ tablets for the kids and netflix in bed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: List of shame

      Kind of agree. I'm about to relegate an 11 year old household dual-core laptop to Win7 software testing but fact is its still fine for basic office use and web access.

      On the other hand PC tech has come some distance since 2007 and a modern mobile PC is far more flexible and convenient to use. I've got used to a yoga-style convertible and flipping between tablet and laptop modes makes the device far more versatile (obviously I use phone or smaller tablet for everyday tablet stuff not the 13.5 incher). I'd hate to have to go back to an old school clamshell and have a suspicion that we are approaching a tipping point where the imminent death of the clamshell will be obvious. Even in PC World.

      As for the kids. Tablets/phones great but a laptop or desktop are still essential to make the most of schoolwork don't listen to those who suggest otherwise. My son advocates large screens for revision especially and his recent 11 A*s at GCSE tend to suggest he has a point.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: List of shame

      "Boy I'd wish there was a list somewhere with all the tech analysts and tech journalists who sang the end of laptops and desktops just a few years ago.

      I wish I'd have a dime for every time the end of laptops and desktops was announced...

  15. Anonymous Coward


    Everyone jump on the smart band and smart watch wagon... oh wait.

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    What I'd like to know

    is whether the numbers include any of these

    On a side note: old tablets make excellent digital picture frames or clocks. Got a 7" no-name POS with a Nixie-tube-clock simulator running in the drawing room, looks really nice, even my wife likes it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, but if tablets have "replaced" laptops/desktops then surely that implies the same average refresh

    rate (i.e. 3 to 4 years) ?

    1. Jim O'Reilly

      A tablet is not a laptop

      Tablets are displays...they don't really store programs or data much.

      Because of that, a tablet lasts until the display breaks, which is turning out to be a long time!

      Desktops and notebooks needed to be upgraded to keep up with Windows and other applications...every 2 to 3 years

  18. disorder

    Like plenty of people at the other end of the phone when someone's IT breaks or the icon moved some other place, I had trouble finding a real use case myself for tablets. And also alike, about the best I've been able to really come up with is watching videos (in bed, naturally), occasional web use and books/documents, or a remote monitor. I tried to find better ones. Still looking.

    However I do interact with plenty of people to whom the tablet 'is' IT. Once they've got one (for friendface or something or other as I heard it), they really don't need to upgrade it all that much ever. There's a few light bits of software I've seen used, essentially in the context of a light laptop that's (apple's anyway; sorry but it's true) a bit more resilient than general pc laptops.

    What do any of these uses require an upgrade for? When they have a screen you can't see the pixels on already, and other than maybe being lighter (£350 lighter? mmm), or oh - I know - more battery?

    Or anyway a *new* battery. Luckily they're all glued in, and that Lithium Ion degrades on-the-shelf even whether it's being cycled or not. That was some good forward thinking. Thank job there's been no meaningful progress in that regard in 15 years. Somehow, I think it'll stabilise.

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