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Are tablets in danger? MENA sales continue to plummet this year

Tablet shipments to the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are expected to fall by 8.1 per cent this year to 12.76 million units, said industry experts. Global shipments are expected to fall by 15.6 per cent.

The fourth quarter of 2016 marked the ninth consecutive quarter that tablet shipments have declined.

Consecutive declines

According to International Data Corporation (IDC)’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, vendors shipped 52.9m tablets in the Q4 2016, which was a decline of 20.1 per cent from the same quarter one year ago. Similarly, shipments of 174.8m units for the full year 2016 were down 15.6 per cent compared to 2015, marking the second straight year of declining shipments.

Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers said: “The sentiment around the tablet market continues to grow stale despite a lot of talk about vendors pivoting their product portfolios toward the detachable segment.”

He added: “Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions and, as a result, we see the decline happening globally. We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East and Africa, as well as Central and Eastern Europe, with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don’t equate to large revenues.”

Detachable focus

Vendors that have historically led the notebook PC market are also talking about expanding their product portfolios to include more detachable tablets, although currently there is more talk than action.

As a result, Apple and Microsoft are dominating the detachable tablet segment. IDC believes the second half of 2017 will bring a wide range of new detachable devices from the notebook PC OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) as well as those playing primarily in the smartphone space.

Yet even detachable tablets struggled to maintain momentum in Q4 2016 as flagship products from key players like Microsoft and Apple started to show signs of age.

Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, said: “The market continues to warm up to two-in-one devices, but we’re now getting to a point where the price and performance disparity between detachables and convertibles has started to narrow, and this added competition led to a dampening in the growth of detachable tablets.”

Tablet Vendor Highlights

Apple: Apple’s hold on the tablet market is yet to be challenged although the company is not immune to overall market challenges, declining 18.8 per cent in Q4 2016. The iPad Pro line-up made up only a small portion of overall shipments as the iPad Air 2 and Mini tablets continued to account for the majority of the shipments for Apple. For every 10 slate tablets shipped, Apple only sold 1 iPad Pro tablet.

Samsung: Samsung remained the number two tablet vendor in the holiday season, capturing 15.1 per cent market share on 8m shipments. The bad news is that this was down –11.4 per cent from the holiday quarter in 2015. The Tab S2 and Tab A continue to be the strongest models for Samsung and its largest markets for tablet consumption continue to be the United States, Europe, and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan).

Amazon: Amazon’s Fire tablets continued their hot streak, earning the company third place overall in Q4 2016. The already low cost tablets were further discounted during the Black Friday sales period although this was still not enough to stave off an annual decline. However, it is important to note that Amazon is in the unique position where tablet market share is likely not of significant importance as the company remains highly focused on acquiring additional Prime subscribers regardless of the type of device used.

Lenovo: Lenovo was one of the two vendors to grow in the Q4 2016 and managed to gain 2.1 per cent over the same period in 2015. With a broad lineup and innovative designs, IDC expects this vendor will be one to watch in 2017.

Huawei: Outside of price, Huawei’s value proposition is cellular connectivity and this was evident in their portfolio as the majority of their tablets offered built-in 3G or 4G connectivity. To date, the Chinese company has done well in expanding their reach to Asian, European, and Middle Eastern markets, though their tablet presence in the U.S. is close to non-existent.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Samsung aims to reach annual sales of $400bn by 2020 while placing Samsung Electronics’ overall brand value among the global top five, according to its website.

Samsung Gulf Electronics launched the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 during an event at the Samsung Experience store in Dubai Media City on April 3, 2017. Digital content enthusiasts experienced the Galaxy Tab S3’s video and gaming capabilities along with versatile usage as a productivity tool.

The tablet has a 13-megapixel rear camera which includes auto focus and a 5-megapixel front camera for high-quality photos. The tablet also includes expandable storage and more power efficiency with fast-charge capabilities, supporting up to 12 hours of video playback, as well as Pogo keyboards with no separate charging or pairing required.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is optimised for entertainment, offering versatile usage and taking the mobile experience the next level. It offers a cinema-like experience with 4K video playback and a stunning Super AMOLED display. In addition, the Galaxy Tab S3 is the first Samsung tablet to feature quad-stereo speakers tuned by AKG by HARMAN for premium visual and listening experiences.

Optimised for gaming, the Galaxy Tab S3 includes Vulkan API for superior graphics and Game Launcher for an enhanced user interface and personalised gaming experience, as well as modes like Do Not Disturb for uninterrupted gameplay.