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May 07, 2015

Where Is the Tablet in 2015?

Chances are pretty good that you own a smartphone. Since this is a business blog, chances are great that you are at work reading this from a desktop. What are the chances you found this article from a tablet? Who cares, really?

For me, tablets are frustrating. I can do more from my laptop than I can from my tablet. Apps on my phone perform better than those on my tablet. When traveling, I take my laptop and smartphone, never a tablet.

I know, I'm lumping tablets under one umbrella. I understand there are huge differences between an iPad and an Android, and even among Android devices, but I don't care. None do it for me.

And it appears I am not alone.

The thrill of the tablet seems to be waning for most people. Those who wanted a tablet when they first arrived on the market now have one. Likely they have more than one.

But the fad is over. The market has hit a wall. Look at sales over the past five years in the image below.

tablet sales over past six yearsSource: statista.com


Numbers have slumped year over year. The interest just isn't there anymore. The market is reaching a saturation point. I'm not saying tablets will go the way of the Walkman or PalmPilot, but they aren't reaching the potential of smartphones, whose sales are on the rise.

Tens of millions of tablets compared to a couple billion smartphones. I mean, there's just no comparison.

Apple still holds the lead in tablet sales, though, nearly doubling Samsung sales in the fourth quarter of 2014. But Apple doesn't make 2-1 devices (tablet-laptop hybrids...yeah I know, right?), and is expected to lose market share in the coming year to manufacturers, like Microsoft, that are.

In the end, however, all vendors are losing market share to smartphones.

Why is this? My take is it's because tablets aren't truly mobile. They require a Wi-Fi network connection. Not like a smartphone. Your use of a tablet is restricted to home use or public Wi-Fi networks.

Why bother?

If I'm home, I'm going to use my desktop or my laptop just for the sake of increased functionality. If I'm out, I mean you can whip out a smartphone anywhere.

Smartphones are the epitome of mobility while tablets are more hybrids bridging the gap between mobile and desktop. Looking at a website on a tablet, you either get a smaller version of the desktop view or a blown up version of a smartphone view.

Neither experience is exceptional for a user.

Smartphones are more accessible, too, from a cost perspective. Most wireless providers offer free smartphones or heavily discounted smartphones with a contract. They can also utilize Wi-Fi networks to save on data charges and they have longer battery life.

And now with phones like the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, Galaxy Note 4, Nexus 6 and the Lumina 1250, you have almost as much real estate to consume content as a tablet offers. I'm certain with the success of those devices more smartphone manufacturers will increase screen size and cannibalize any remaining market share from tablets over the next few years.

While I still use tablets for testing purposes, in my personal, everyday use, I find those tablets collecting dust more often now.

When it comes down to it, I believe the tablet's finite functionality will mean a finite lifespan as a technology. I don't know how you can give it more mobility without a wireless provider getting involved and making it truly mobile, but that would change the entire landscape of the tablet market.

Tablets are kind of stuck in innovation limbo. People already get a portable desktop experience from a laptop. And they don't want a mobile device that can't fit in a pocket. Without incorporating the functionality of a laptop and the mobility of a smartphone, I just don't see tablets having an audience broad enough to keep them viable for very much longer.