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Smartphones eat into MEA tablet market

Smartphones with large screens have taken a toll on tablets in the Middle East and Africa (MEA).  The region’s tablet market has contracted for the second quarter in a row in the first three months of the year.


The market declined by 12.3 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter, reaching a total of 3.32 million units, according to the latest figures from leading research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).


The slump follows the 8.8 per cent YoY drop seen in the fourth quarter of 2015.


“We are finding that consumers are increasingly reluctant to replace their existing devices, as the majority of tasks that were previously performed on tablets have now shifted to Smartphones with larger screens,” says Nakul Dogra, a senior research analyst for personal computing, systems and infrastructure solutions at IDC. “This reluctance has resulted in a lengthening of tablet replacement cycles, a phenomenon that has inevitably had a negative impact on overall demand.”


Dogra added that low crude oil prices are hampering consumer sentiment and business activity, particularly in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), further aggravating the situation.


“Meanwhile, the continued depreciation of key African currencies against the US dollar – including the Nigerian naira, the South African rand and the Egyptian pound – has also acted as an inhibitor, as poor exchange rates make tablets more expensive,” states Dogra.


The research firm has revised its forecast downwards for the region’s tablet market for whole of the year 2016 and now expects a total of 14.9m units to be shipped in the year, representing a YoY decline of 7.9 per cent.


On the other hand, despite the market’s overall slowdown, detachable tablets witnessed growth as they are steadily gaining popularity in the region, following the launch of various new devices in this product category. Detachable tablets now account for 4.2 per cent of the overall tablet market, with shipments increasing by a staggering 335 per cent in the first quarter.


IDC expects shipments of detachable tablets, the bulk of which run on Windows platforms, to grow by 127.7 per cent in 2016.


In terms of vendor rankings, Samsung – which has the widest tablet portfolio – continued to lead the market in Q1 2016, with a 21.2 per cent share, despite suffering a 23.3 per cent decline in shipments, IDC said.


After a sluggish performance in the last quarter of the previous year, Lenovo retook second place with 12.3 per cent share, despite posting a 21.7 per cent decline in shipments. Apple rounded out the top three with 11.5 per cent share after posting an 11 per cent decline in shipments.


“All vendors are feeling the pinch from the slowdown,” says Fouad Rafiq Charakla, a senior research manager for personal computing, systems and infrastructure solutions at IDC. “Considering the thin margins on the lower-end products that account for the bulk of demand, vendors are unwilling to offer any further support to channels, leading to a decline in shipments across the region. As certain entry-level tablet models are available at price points below $50, key players are under intense pressure to maintain their sell outs.”