back to article Slabs, huh, what are they are good for? Er, not quite absolutely nothing

Fewer and fewer people want to fondle a new slab these days with just 36.4 million units shipped worldwide during Q3. This equated to 3.5 million fewer tablet devices sold versus the year-ago quarter, a drop of 8.7 per cent: traditional slates fell almost 8 per cent to 31.6 million and detachables were down 13.1 per cent to 4. …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely "lesser and lesser".

  2. Rob

    Not surprised...

    ... I've had a Samsung Note 10.1 since about 2016 but recently I bought a 2-in-1 HP Envy (always need a laptop) and I hardly use the Note tablet now. Between my Note 8 phone and the laptop the tablet seems superfluous (just as well, seeing as it doesn't get updates anymore, might have to cook it to get more life from it).

    1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Not surprised...

      Same here. Got 2 laptops...Rarely use my tablet now. Only bought 2 laptops because analysts keep complaining of declining laptop sales every year. I'm not buying a second tablet just to help with those figures.

      For anyone wondering: one of the laptops is a qbittorrent machine running Windows, the other is my regular laptop for Kubuntu,

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Not surprised...

      I'm the reverse. Tablets allow me to forgo a phone. However, the manufacturers still won't be happy as, at the rate I kill the suckers, the "new" tablet to be delivered tomorrow is a refurbished Lenovo 10" job. One that can be rooted for my site survey apps. Almost entirely used for reading my books, references and occasional journal.

      1. Agamemnon

        Re: Not surprised...

        What you said...only: I have to have a phone too. With a BT Foldable Keyboard and ArcTouch mouse, my 8" Tablet replaces my laptops (I have bunches of those too). But I like that everything fits in a cargo pocket on my thigh, it's all 4G (which was handy doing network/POS at a resort).

        * And actually, with the foldable BT Keyboard I Could actually use my phone since all the tools are the same, but my eyes are getting old and if I'm carrying a Fresnel Lense, may as well carry an 8" slab.

      2. xanda
        FAIL

        Re: Not surprised...

        'Could do better' springs to mind.

        The three tablets we've had thus far have all been bluff & bluster - high on price, short on performance and maximum on unreliability.

        Even the larger brands seem ignorant of what's in their own kit: we had a devil of a time trying to find out what storage card was right for our Lenovo. Can't think the experience is any better for brand-X types.

        It seems the vendors suffer with collective ADD inasmuch as no sooner have they sold one half-baked effort, they then rapidly disavow/withdraw support for it and dish out the next one.

        It's a tiresome cycle indeed and maybe customers are starting not to bother because of it?

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Not surprised...

          My 8-year-old iPad 2 is still going, still more than good enough for web browsing, video streaming and older games. It still gets used quite a lot, but I see no likelihood of replacing it when it finally flakes out. The spouse will just have to give in and get a smartphone like everyone else.

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    Surface Pro is not a tablet

    Since the Surface Pro has a fully fledged OS with a detachable keyboard, should it count as a tablet ?

    Yes, it does have tablet mode but I would hazard a guess the 98% of it's usage is in the fully desktop mode.

    So, if we don't count the Surface Pros then sales are even lower than the cited figures.

    Not surprised really as tablets are great for for very little excpet media content slurping, the very rare powerpoint boredom slideshow and a little bit of gaming. Telephones are so powerfull now that they are just as good as tablets for almost everything where a 6" screen is acceptable.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Surface Pro is not a tablet

      "Since the Surface Pro has a fully fledged OS with a detachable keyboard, should it count as a tablet ?"

      I think so.

  4. Sureo

    Samsung innovation

    I just replaced a 5 year old Tab 4 with a Tab A. It is identical in every way except has a USB-C port and a newer version of Android. (And, the speaker fires out the bottom instead of the back, the only real improvement.) The innovation must be the price, which hasn't changed.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Samsung innovation

      There is indeed no real tablet innovation.

      Just improvements in price.

      No-one has satisfactory solved dual use, a tablet used only for touch (Linux not good), or a tablet used for content creation for a long period with keyboard (optionally mouse). iOs and Android fail as general purpose OS in tablet mode.

      Win10 is MUCH poorer than Win7 or XP or Vista in laptop mode. Mac OS and Linux also now superior to Win10. Yet in undocked Touch mode the desktop applications are near useless on Win8 or Win10, only the "toy" stuff for Metro/Windows phone being any use.

      What's needed is applications to have dual GUIs. No, Mozilla, I DO NOT want desktop Firefox to behave like a phone app, it's grotesque!

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Tablet mode?

        "iOs and Android fail as general purpose OS in tablet mode."

        Obviously I meant laptop mode!

  5. LordHighFixer

    You can only bloat so much

    Once you reach a certain point there is really no need for an upgrade. Even developers, as irresponsible as they are can only up the requirements to a certain point. Most hardware purchased in the last few years should be good for at least 5 more, then it just becomes a hand me down, unless the battery is glued in, then it becomes e-waste. There is such a thing as market saturation, and as the tech improves the long tail just gets fatter and longer.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: You can only bloat so much

      "Once you reach a certain point there is really no need for an upgrade."

      The entire PC+phone+slab market is *HORRIBLY* misunderstood by WAY too many.

      To me, it's simple:

      a) phone is a necessity, and everyone already has one (more or less). "new, shiny" needs to be compelling for people to get another one.

      b) slab is a luxury, and everyone who wants one already has one. "new, shiny" needs to be even MORE compelling for people to want a new one

      c) PC is a necessity, and 10 year old machines with windows 7 on them appear BETTER than new machines with Win-10-nic on them. If a hardware change [new hard drive, more RAM] isn't going to do it, a new PC might, if Win-10-nic doesn't become the reason NOT to get a new one.

      OK market "experts", put THAT in your pipes and smoke it [instead of the wacky weed of "wish" and "hope" you've obviously been using up until now...]

      icon: a big facepalm for all of those who haven't seen the obvious

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: *HORRIBLY* misunderstood by WAY too many.

        Gosh, I might even invite "bombastic bob" in for tea!

        I bought a new laptop nearly two years ago, with win7. My main one before that was XP from ... 2002! (1.8GHz P4 1600 x1200 screen. WiFi, HDD, upgrades, RAM added). It had Win7, but since I've been using UNIX family since 1985 and Linux servers since 1999, I switched to Linux Mint + Mate desktop. I have a ghastly workstation and a convertible Laptop/Tablet both win 10. I rarely use them except to check Windows horror stories. I may change the Tablet/Laptop to Mint if I figure how to fix screen rotation not rotating touch (or something, I set up an old IBM X201 with Mint and told the owner to only use it landscape in Tablet mode, he only uses in laptop mode anyway. The Waycom pen is nice).

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: *HORRIBLY* misunderstood by WAY too many.

          I bought a new laptop nearly two years ago, with win7. My main one before that was XP from ... 2002! (1.8GHz P4 1600 x1200 screen

          ...and I'll wager the new one has a lower screen resolution/pixel count than the old one. Seriously, WTF is up with all these 1920x1080 panels?

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: You can only bloat so much

        I agree.

        Personally, a desktop machine (or, with my current equipment, a laptop that never leaves the desk) is the only mandatory piece of equipment. A smartphone is a desirable piece of gear, but I could do without one if need be. A tablet is pure "nice to have", an optional luxury.

  6. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Life Span

    I do wonder how much if the "Disappointing Permanence" of the tablet market is due the analysts desperately wanting the tablets to sell like phones I've had my Xperia Z tablet since they were released in 2013 and its still going strong, in that time period I've gone through 3 phones.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge

    Employer supplied

    I probably wouldn't have purchased a slab/pad. My employer supplies it, but after having one, I might be inclined to buy one should my employer take it away...

  8. Alan Bourke

    But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

    ... if you were to believe a bunch of idiots 8 or 10 years ago

    1. Timmy B Silver badge

      Re: But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

      "But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

      ... if you were to believe a bunch of idiots 8 or 10 years ago"

      Or Apple last week....

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

      Don't forget...

      IT! WAS! THIS! KIND! OF! THINKING! THAT! BROUGHT! US! WINDOWS! "APE" (8)! and WIN-10-NIC!

      You remember - one OS and one UI for EVERY platform, right? It runs on your phone, it runs on your tablet, it runs on your PC, it runs on your GAME CONSOLE, blah blah blah-die blah-blah. And looks like a phone or slab display, because THAT was "the future" for computing.

      And then it was "Universal APPS" and the "Microsoft Store" !!! Because you did NOT learn your lesson.

      You CHANGED the UI for the OS to match that RIDICULOUS MISCONCEPTION, and the REST of us BEAR THE CONSEQUENCES of it.

      (Yeah Ballmer and Sat-Nad, that's looking _REALLY_ _SMART_ right now, isn't it???)

      And, thanks for all of the ruined marketing opportunities because of Windows "Ape" and Win-10-nic!!! The entire PC hardware and software industry oughta be at your door with PITCHFORKS and TORCHES over this!!!

      1. Roopee
        Thumb Down

        Re: But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

        @bob

        I keep coming across your rants (and frequently downvote them because they are just that, rants) and I still have no clue where you get your naming from - Win-10-NIC ?? In my world NIC is short for network interface card. I hate Windows 10 as much as the next sane techie but I prefer to argue my points in a calm, reasoned manner.

        And this thread is about tablet sales, not the design of Windows, which I beg to proffer has very little to do with it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

          >> I keep coming across your rants

          He needs to adjust the dried frog pill dosage.

        2. Steve Foster

          Re: But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

          It's derived from the Titanic (cf. Intel Itanium > Itanic). Imagine voicing it as Wintenic.

          But, yes, it's a bit on the lame side.

        3. overunder

          Re: But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

          "And this thread is about tablet sales, not the design of Windows, which I beg to proffer has very little to do with it."

          Or that might have everything to do with Surface sales.

        4. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Windows-10-nic

          I'd assumed he meant Windows-10-nik, as in Beatnik, Sputnik or Refusenik - the "nik" suffix denoting someone associated with the thing in question. From the Russian Yiddish.

        5. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: But ... but ... they're going to replace consoles and PCs

          "I still have no clue where you get your naming from - Win-10-NIC"

          I've long been wondering the same thing myself.

  9. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Tablet longevity

    My wife's tablet is over three years old. It's high res, still in full working order, amply fast for what she does with it. Why does she want to replace it?

    Detachable keyboards are like motorcycle sidecars; less convenient than either a motorcycle or a car most of the time.

    1. TVU Silver badge

      Re: Tablet longevity

      "My wife's tablet is over three years old. It's high res, still in full working order, amply fast for what she does with it. Why does she want to replace it?"

      Same here - i got a tablet with a higher resolution to act as an ebook reader as well. It's working well and there's no need to replace it.

      What we're seeing is a market that's reaching maturity and saturation, that's all.

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Tablet longevity

      'Detachable keyboards are like motorcycle sidecars; less convenient than either a motorcycle or a car most of the time.'

      Too true, my detachable keyboard is rubbish for getting to the shops.

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Tablet longevity

        >>'Detachable keyboards are like motorcycle sidecars; less convenient than either a motorcycle or a car most of the time.'

        Too true, my detachable keyboard is rubbish for getting to the shops.

        Mine's a lot easier to park in town to be fair

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Tablet longevity - Too true, my detachable keyboard is rubbish for getting to the shops.

        Meaning of analogy

  10. Roopee
    Happy

    El Reg is slipping...

    Well, the creative pictures department at least; one of my primary use cases for my tablets is precisely illustrated in the headline picture!

  11. ColonelClaw

    I love my 2nd gen iPad Air. And that's the problem; it works too damn well for me to replace.

  12. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Why replace what just works? And, in most (Albeitly NOT all!), cases if the Vendor decides to up and feck off with the Updates... (Looking at you Samsung!). Then thankfully we have, or had People working on AOSP's for those Devices*, that have done an otherwice terriffic job at keeping said Devices a bit more usefull than they might have otherwise had been.

    So again. Why replace something... Becuse its newer, with something I already have? I susspect thats how 3D TV ultimately died. Because Full HD haden't even been out (i.e. In the mainstream.), for like Five Years, before they thought to add it. The People were still, and hell probably still to this Day, enjoying their dumb TVs. and, have no intentions to buy another until said Device releases its magic smoke. e.g. nobody bought the shiny new 3D Sets, and it was considerd to be a failure, because nobody wanted it. Funny thing is I wonder why they just dont toss it in like the creapy spyware *cough* Smart TV *cough* functions. it would have at least possibly lead to some industy wide standard.

    But, alas 3D wasn't to be....

    *Updates be they from the Vendor, or indeed via Google's ASOP Repo. But, than again it's only those who will eventually find themselve on a Site like this. That'll actually give a toss about 'em. Now just imagine your Auntie who wouldn't know an Update from a Hole in the Ground, And is still enjoying a Kit-Kat flavored Android lifestye. Again it just seems to work.. So its still good enough right?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Yet damn near every big TV sold today has 3D functionality - it's usually a by product of the high refresh rate used by the image processing gubbins, so 3D doesn't add to the cost.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      "I susspect thats how 3D TV ultimately died"

      I think 3D TV didn't go anywhere because it only appeals to a tiny slice of the marketplace. It's the same problem what VR and AR have.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some of us can get by with OLD, SLOW stuff.....

    ......and still get the job done.

    Only the FANBOIS need new, shiny, spiffy stuff....and that has NOTHING to do with "getting the job done"...it's all about fashion....or Keeping up with the Kardashians....or something.....

    So.....my ten year old feature phone from Samsung, and my two year old cheap, cheap, cheap Cloudbook from Acer (2GB memory, 32GB eMMC "hard drive") are COMPLETELY USEFUL....total price for both, less than £200.

    The FANBOIS need to save some money and spend it on something useful....I suggest a holiday somewhere away from the new, shiny, stuff....say a holiday in Madagascar or Fiji!

  14. Oh Homer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Odd middle ground

    I get PCs. I get smartphones. But fondleslabs occupy that strange middle ground that doesn't make any sense to me.

    I mean, it's too big to fit in your pocket, and you can't exactly walk around operating it with one hand while you open doors with the other, etc., but then it's also basically useless for productivity, unless you also carry around a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, at which point you might as well just take a laptop.

    Maybe it has a niche as a portable video player while travelling by train/bus, but even that seems a little pointless if you already have a smartphone.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Odd middle ground

      I got mine to use when flying as a moving map, NOTAM and weather plotting thing, which is quite a niche use case but is better than the phone as the screen's that bit bigger. But at home although it's handy if I just want to browse the web/check emails, it's not what I'd call essential.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Odd middle ground

        Found the Foreflight user!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Odd middle ground

      >> you can't exactly walk around operating it with one hand while you open doors with the other

      True, but I have seen quite a few tourists wandering around, holding up a tablet up to take photos; but they do seem rather cumbersome for that purpose.

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Odd middle ground

      It's a screen that you can put wherever you like, that turns on instantly (zero boot time), that can be propped up against the toaster to show a recipe, or shared with the whole family if need be.

      The big mistake people make is in thinking that it's a type of computer. It's not. It's a media consumption device, it has more in common with a TV than a laptop. Think of it in those terms, and you might understand the use cases better.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Odd middle ground

      It makes plenty of sense, but you have to grasp that it is just a luxury, unlike a smartphone - which basically everyone needs living in 21st century western society - even my mum has one - or an actual computer, which anyone with a job in the 21st century needs.

      A tablet is a media consumption device with a bigger screen than a phone, that is all. Useless for productivity, despite the best marketing efforts of Apple and Microsoft. Watching, reading and browsing for which it is better than a phone or PC due to better screen size and power than the former; weight, zero boot-up time, battery life better than the latter.

      No-one needs a tablet in the way that they need a phone or computer, and it is never going to replace either, but there is a market for them - just not 5 billion people wanting to replace every 18 months, which is what Apple's stock price seems to demand.

      1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Odd middle ground

        "A tablet is a media consumption device with a bigger screen than a phone, that is all. Useless for productivity, despite the best marketing efforts of Apple and Microsoft.

        Horseshit. That may be all it is for YOU, but I can go to a client's site, take photos, make sketches with pro-level art tools (Serif Software Affinity Photo, which I also use on the desktop, since I don't feel like renting Adobe Photoshop), create a quote and email it all in a PDF to a client before I get back to the office. I can troubleshoot relatives' computer problems (being the family geek) remotely with Team Viewer. I can even type long-form text files on the screen -- not being a touch-typist, the lack of a physical keyboard is utterly immaterial to me (although I, at least, have the intellectual honesty to admit that something that I have no need for MIGHT be crucial to someone else!) -- and being able to look at the keyboard AND the output on-screen at the same time works well for me.

        Now, it's true that I spend a lot of my leisure time using my iPad (9.7") and my Samsung Tab 4 (7") for consuming content -- try reading with severely nearsighted sixty-mumble-year-old eyes on a moving city bus on a laptop or phone! -- but saying that that's ALL a tablet could POSSIBLY be useful for is just flat-out wrong. I can't drive so, for instance, I might consider a motorcycle to be a frivolous toy, good only for cruising around for amusement. But I had a friend years ago who couldn't afford a car, so rode her motorcycle year-round -- including in New England winters -- to get to her third-shift job after the busses stopped running at night. For me, a motorcycle had no use case -- for her, it most certainly DID.

        There are myriad people who have use-cases different from yours or mine. Many of them may be niche cases -- as I will admit MINE is -- but, when you come right down to it, EVERY individual is a niche case and if you can fill a lot of niches, you can have a solid industry.

  15. tempemeaty
    Unhappy

    Phones with services now just a lease

    Now that all the carriers have made the phones gotten from them on contract a lease that you can't own, everyone I know is sticking to old phones and not changing anything. I imagine this "Carrier" contract change has a lot to do with new phone sales plummeting.

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Well, a slab is a large phone... usually without the phone bit (cell data) and too big to fit in your pocket.

    It's not useful as a lappie because it runs a phone OS (Android or iPad) and has no keyboard.

    For me, the only upside is it's a nicer way to use Google Maps, but that's a pretty narrow use-case to splash out those kind of bucks. Even a Chromebook is more useful.

  17. Social Ambulator

    What would El Reg readers know about iPad users?

    I am in academic tech, have numerous desktops, laptops, servers, iPhone. See no real need for an iPad. My wife just went out and bought one when they were first released. She has her own specific uses for it, which reflect her demographic and particular situation (middle-aged, female, travels a lot, needs to store her own teaching documents as pdfs, reads on flights, watches Dr Who). The only reason why she upgraded a few years back was for speed, but her current model still runs the latest iOS and is quite adequate. She like others in her demographic will run their iPads as long as they can. She hasn't fallen out of love with it — quite the reverse. It's just that the phone analogy does not apply. Tough for Apple, but it's similar with their laptops. I'm typing this on a late 2010 MacBook Pro, which I'm only just about to replace.

  18. Marcus_Bond

    I had two tablets, a Tab 10.1 which I found was a poor experience and quickly stopped using it, then I thought I'd try again with a Lenovo tablet that was recommended to me a couple of years ago, but it was just as bad. I found both tablets were pretty slow, and unresponsive compared to my iphone, and large, quite heavy, cold, hard and uncomfortable in use, they quickly went in a drawer and were never used again.

    Found a desktop PC was my productivity machine, and the iphone did most everything else. Never got on with laptops, give me crick in my neck looking down at the monitor. Nowadays I'm more focused on security and privacy hardware and features with a desktop setup using a new Chromebox for general internet stuff & a Win 10 PC for other important software, and an iphone.

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