back to article If you drop a tablet in a forest of smartphones, will anyone hear it fall?

Sales of tablets fell 10 per cent in Western Europe during calendar Q2 to a mere 6.3m units, according to abacus stroker IDC To put that into context, IDC told us smartphone shipments in the same region in Q2 were 27.2M units, despite a decline of 4.5 per cent year-on-year. The analyst counts Microsoft Surface PCs as tablets …

  1. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    mature market ?

    In other news, car sales remained fairly flat, as did washing machines, microwaves, and cookers.

    Oh, hang on. That's not news. News is communication about the unexpected.

    1. Blank Reg Silver badge

      Re: mature market ?

      I'm still using a 5 year old Sony Xperia, and don't really have any reason to upgrade. I'm sure that I'm not alone.

      1. David Paul Morgan

        Re: mature market ?

        agreed,

        we're still using our Z2 & Z4 Xperias at home.

        I have a Dell windows hybrid, but it's not able to compete with the battery life and sheer portability of my Xperia.

        There's nothing as thin and light on the market atm. The Z4 is 'waffer thin' and light as a feather.

        but they do the job for years and years.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: That's not news

      No, but it is still information.

      Not information I care about, but still, it is information.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: mature market ?

      In other news, car sales remained fairly flat, as did washing machines, microwaves, and cookers.

      It's the same every time there's a doom and gloom headline about PC sales being flat. It's as if people were expecting that the 90's-2000's sales figures were going to last forever. Or in tablet terms I guess that would be 2010-2015 sales figures.

  2. 404 Silver badge

    Niche item

    Have a little mount adapter that attaches to my car's CD slot - hang an Asus Zenpad off it. Monitors car performance, systems, etc via BT, and does GPS mapping duties as well as running audio/video.

    Or watch movies/whatever when cooking. That's it. My 2013 CF-53 Toughbook is my main machine, with a seriously overpowered dev machine sitting in the corner for heavy stuff.

    If you really thinking about it, 99% mobile sites suck monkey balls and don't have the functionality of a full website, so what's the point of using a tablet?

    Apologies for the rambling, but I don't think about them any longer - was fun while it lasted though.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Niche item

      "99% mobile sites suck monkey balls and don't have the functionality of a full website, so what's the point of using a tablet?"

      Just because you're using a tablet (or even a smartphone) doesn't mean you have to use the mobile sites. I make sure to get the desktop version of sites on all my mobile devices. Now, if I could only find a way to spoof those damned "responsive" sites so they don't try to adjust to my screen size.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Niche item

      yeah I've built a couple of prototype devices to demo a concept for one particular customer using an inexpensive fondleslab as a control device (in lieu of a front panel). A $$ 'droid slab will do what a $$$ screen does, and you can walk around the room with it...

    3. E_Nigma

      Re: Niche item

      I got a Lenovo Tab 4 8 recently for pretty much the use you're describing: watching something while in the kitchen and occasionally taking it out to show people holiday photos as, at 8", it is a considerably larger surface than my 5.15" smartphone. I always meant it for simple media consumption and for that reason I went for a 150€ device and not something more expensive. Even so, the couple of games (Sky Force Reloaded, SimCity) I've thrown at it worked surprisingly (completely) smoothly. I guess the lower res screen helps with the performance, although aliasing is rather omnipresent in SimCity. It's not noticeable at all when watching stuff with smooth gradients like pictures, videos and TV and also when browsing, and those, again, are exactly the things for which I bought it, so I'm happy. It's actually compact enough that it easily fits in whatever I'm carrying (usually a small Converse shoulder bag, which is just the right size) so I often have it on me and will whip it out when I need to look up something online and there is more than one of us looking at the screen. So I do use it just enough to be able to justify the amount that I paid for it, but going for something more expensive would not have made sense and I also don't think that I'll be replacing it soon: it does what I want it to well and will continue to do so. Therefore, while I did improve the recent sales figures, I can see why they are not that great.

    4. Tannin

      Re: Niche item

      "If you really thinking about it, 99% mobile sites suck monkey balls and don't have the functionality of a full website, so what's the point of using a tablet?"

      The fact is, 99% of full websites these days are dumbed-down to be little better than the mobile sites anyway.

  3. steelpillow Silver badge

    big screen landfill

    If you actually need a screen as big as a tablet then you need a decent keyboard. Maybe they should include Chromebooks in the stats count. Or rename the current stat "big screen landfill"

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: big screen landfill

      Given that probably 1% of tablet owners bother with a keyboard, I don't think that's true.

      Tablets are seemingly used primary for content consumption in the domestic market, and data-entry in the business world (but this is a much smaller market). Whereas smartphones are used more as general mini-computers really.

      Of course a tablet can DO vastly more than this, especially a higher-end one, but that's more niche. I can (and do) use mine as a modelling amp for my guitar, a music creation tool, etc, etc

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: big screen landfill

      "If you actually need a screen as big as a tablet then you need a decent keyboard."

      This is certainly not true at all.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: big screen landfill

      >If you actually need a screen as big as a tablet then you need a decent keyboard.

      Erm no, as I can't hold a keyboard a tablet and wipe my arse at the same time as I love using a tablet while on the toilet. I need a screen that size after years of staring at computer screens have dimmed my eyes.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: big screen landfill

        Erm no, as I can't hold a keyboard a tablet and wipe my arse at the same time as I love using a tablet while on the toilet.

        Depends on what you wipe your arse with, really! ;-)

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Re: big screen landfill

          Depends on what you wipe your arse with, really! ;-)

          I don't think there's an app for that ... not yet, anyway!

          (Thinks: Maybe a bluetooth remote for one of those Japanese-style electric toilet-seat-cum-bidet thingies?)

      2. Alistair Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: big screen landfill

        "Erm no, as I can't hold a keyboard a tablet and wipe my arse at the same time as I love using a tablet while on the toilet. "

        Sounds like its time to invest in a bidet.......

    4. Paul Shirley

      Re: big screen landfill

      "If you actually need a screen as big as a tablet then you need a decent keyboard"

      When I'm playing games on mine the last thing I need is a keyboard. A screen large enough my fingers don't block too much view is why I no longer play much on my massively more powerful phone. Also nice to see what I'm playing now the eyes are showing their age.

      The keyboard I do have for it hasn't been used for a couple of years now. The screen keyboard is faster!

  4. James 51 Silver badge

    I would argue about the new tablet from Microsoft being aggressively priced (unless you mean they're charging as much as they dare rather than operating on low margins). I regard it being too expensive for what it is, particularly for the 8Gb model with a keyboard and a pen.

    I wonder why exclude e-ink devices though. I have had my ereader for ten years so perhaps they don't want to try to figure out that kind of market.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      E-Ink readers typically used for reading, and on posh ones annotation. Whereas full colour tablets, regardless of OS, are most often used for web browsing and video, plus maybe a bit of office work at a push.

      However, things are moving forward a bit on the 'tablets for productivity' front. MS's effort uses an Intel chip so, with its optional keyboard and mouse, can do anything a comparable laptop might - except maybe boot Linux. And next year a feature-complete version of Adobe Photoshop is coming to iPads. The productivity software side of Android tablets, which has never been great, doesn't look like it's going to improve soon with Google's attention on Chromebooks and whatever its future OS plans are (Fuschia? Android on ChromeOS? Chrome OS merging with Android?) and little interest from hardware vendors - as vindicated by the sales figures reported here.

      Samsung's new Android tablet is a pricey beast, but it does boast a very nice screen. However, if you're going to spend that much on a nice screen, why have it in a machine with a limited software library?

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        The productivity software side of Android tablets, which has never been great, doesn't look like it's going to improve …

        Seems like you're ignoring things like Samung's DeX and the, admittedly niche, Planet Gemini which show that you can do real work™ on Android devices. For my money I think the Gemini will spawn more devices of its ilk for those who want MS Office in their pocket (and I know quite a few who do).

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          You're quite right - there is Office for Android, and it's even been optimised for DEX. And of course there is no shortage of Android software that is tied to a service or subscription.

          I guess I was thinking more of stand-alone software in the music and graphics sectors.

          Hmmm, I haven't played with Samsung's file manager on my phone yet; I wonder if it allows write access to SD cards which are connected via USB (my Nexus 5 didn't, pleading Android system... but it would be a nice arrow in DEX's quiver if it could play nice with external media in the fashion as a Windows or full Linux machine)

          1. Paul Shirley

            I guess I was thinking more of stand-alone software in the music and graphics sectors.

            There seems to be quite a lot of use of iPad drawing software by comic/graphic novel artists. Some pretty spectacular art turns up in my Twitter feed. Music software is a poor fit for a tablet, musicians seem to prefer physical inputs over 'dead' touch screens and PCs do that better.

      2. Mage Silver badge

        eInk

        The eInk is VERY Niche. Serious high consumption readers, or people reading outdoors or traveling without ability to charge (weeks of use!).

        Most eBook consumption is on phones, over 50%. Convenience and you have it already

        Then Tablets.

        A decent eInk reader can ONLY manage books and costs same as phone / cheap tablet. Kobo seems best for proofing/annotation as with Calibre you can get the notes on a per-book basis. Can't get them off my Nook or Sony at all. I can only read ALL notes of all books in one file off my Kindle.

        I've saved about €700+ of paper & toner by proofing /annotating books on my Kobo H2O Aura original. Very very niche.

        Spent a fortune over 25 years ago on printing copies of my first novel. Now written 20+ without printing at all. I "print" to eBook. Also webpages and PDFs (hence having Kindle DXG, 9.7" and 6.8" kobo). I wish I could have afforded the Sony A4/Letter eInk with pen. It was just under $800 when they remaindered it. Too niche to succeed.

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: eInk

          My old kindle , though primarily used as a book reader, had an "experimental" web browser hidden away, and it was OK for basic web surfing (kindle came with cellular connectivity so it meant free web browsing / webmail reading) so bemused why its not included as a tablet just due to display (which is easy to read in just about any lighting conditions and is battery friendly - would love a phone with such a battery frugal display)

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: eInk

          A decent eInk reader can ONLY manage books and costs same as phone / cheap tablet.

          If you've been paying that much you're getting ripped off, a perfectly acceptable e-reader can be had in the £30-50 range. Although I suppose you can find some cheap (and crap) tablets around that range.

  5. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Huh?

    "As the market has become increasingly dominated by Apple and Microsoft, and consequently more premium-focused..."

    Really? I know Windows is doing rather well on tablets, but I wouldn't have thought they were even above Android, let alone dominating the market...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Huh?

      Remember that Microsoft's devices are at the top end of the price range, whereas a lot of the Androids are at the bottom end. So MS could be taking a large share of the profits, even on low sales - like Apple with mobile phones. I don't think the Android vendors take the tablet market that seriously any more.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      I know Windows is doing rather well on tablets, but I wouldn't have thought they were even above Android, let alone dominating the market...

      I imagine a lot of that is Microsoft Surface devices ... they're not really tablets, they're laptops (OK, maybe they do have detachable keyboards) running full-fat Windows.

      Methinks they don't really belong in a survey like this.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My kids, for example....

    I got each of them a Huawei Sensa phone for about $25. Has a better camera than a typical tablet, can be hooked up with Google Voice to act as a free phone, text, etc, etc, etc, They each also have an amazon tablet. Guess what they play with? The phone. When the phone gets to more than 5.5" 1080p screen with memory, it suddenly has a higher appeal than a tablet.

  7. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Meh

    Went to John Lewis over the weekend to inquire about Huawei tablets. The staff member for this part of the store says that they're only available on the website and all they have in store is Samsung, Lenovo, and the terrible Amazon tablets.

    Seems even the retailers don't like Amazon's Fire tablets...

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Amazon's Fire tablets

      An average spec crippled Android. A well chosen Android tablet gives you more of everything for the same money.

      Why would ANY retailer like ANYTHING from Amazon? A major competitor.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: Amazon's Fire tablets

        @Mage The kids verson of the tablets are expensive but with a robust case, curated software/books/videos and two years no questions asked insurance, it can be worth it.

  8. JohnFen Silver badge

    They sold at least three

    "Do they even exist?"

    I've bought three tablets this year, so I know that the sales figures are at least 3 units large.

    1. Mark 110 Silver badge

      Re: They sold at least three

      My current firm dishes out a couple of thousand Dell/MS tablets in the field for site surveys. Theres definitely a business market. Never owned one myself - I'm fine with laptop phone and kindle. Not sure the tablet would add anything.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: They sold at least three

        Yeah, from my point of view they're specialty devices that only really shine for specific sorts of uses. I have one that is solely used for YouTube viewing. The three I bought this year are used as dedicated control panels for a hobby project.

    2. SilverCommentard

      Re: They sold at least three

      I bought one too. So that's four.

  9. Norman Nescio Bronze badge

    O/S?

    I'm in the market to replace some old (landfill) tablets, which continue to work well, but have been abandoned by the retailer with locked firmware so I can't even load LineageOS or Linux, and as a consequence are on very old (and definitely not secure) revisions of Android (Android K)

    Try finding a reasonably priced new tablet running Android O (8.0 or 8.1). And now, Android P is here.

    Of course tablet sales will be dismal if you offer only kack.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: O/S?

      "And now, Android P is here."

      In this case, I'd consider not getting OS updates a good thing, as I actively don't want a slice of Pie.

    2. Fred West
      FAIL

      Re: O/S?

      "Try finding a reasonably priced new tablet running Android O (8.0 or 8.1).”

      http://www.argos.co.uk/product/8145819

      Seems like you need some lessons on how to to do internet searching, as clearly you can't find things that are out there fore even a pleb to find...

  10. Uberior

    Lenovo, Android 7.1, 10" Tablet - £99

    Perfect for watching downloaded content at the gym or on the plane. It's not worth using it for anything else.

  11. Mage Silver badge

    Tablets... a niche

    A tablet is handy if you don't have a laptop / PC location 24/7. I have three decent tablets. Except since upgrading to a phone with 6" screen and web browser much faster than netbook or tablet, I don't use the tablets. If I need more than the phone I use the laptop.

    I have a Win10 10" tablet with docking folding keyboard, the phone is more use, or else I use the Lenovo E460 running Linux (version with 1920 x 1080 screen & decent GPU and i5-6200 @2.3GHz), some tablets cost more and are crap in comparison.

    Tablets are a mature niche market.

    Some big phones now faster than many tablets, 1/4 price (from €100 without contract but network locked for 9 months). A decent laptop 1/2 price of high end tablet.

  12. Fred West

    Judy bought 2 tablets

    To replace now aging devices (Xperia tablet z3 and nexus 7 2013).

    Went with Huawei mediapad M5 8.4

    Sick and tired of waiting for someone to actually understand what consumers wanted, and these devices were close enough. (Great hardware, but really bad emu software, so instantly unlocked and loaded standard android)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Judy bought 2 tablets

      Sick and tired of waiting for someone to actually understand what consumers wanted, and these devices were close enough. (Great hardware, but really bad emu software, so instantly unlocked and loaded standard android)

      You managed to unlock the bootloader? Last I remember, Huawei stopped letting people unlock the bootloader to load/flash standard android.

  13. doublelayer

    Because tablets aren't as useful as the companies thought

    Companies seem to lose track of what products are going to be useful to everyone and which ones aren't. Then, the sales slump off and they all ask why as if nobody's considered it.

    Laptop computer: Hit. People want a lot of computing capacity in a package they can carry with them.

    Smartphone: Hit. People want a lot of computing capacity in a package they can carry on their person and use portably or in motion.

    Tablet: Let's give them a sort of middle amount of computing capacity running an interface designed for pocket devices, but make it big enough that it can't be carried without a bag or conveniently used for short periods on the road. Why doesn't everybody want one?

    Smartwatch: Let's give them a small amount of computing power, and they also carry it on their person, but it does less than the other thing they already carry on them. Do people not understand they should want this?

    Of course, all these things that aren't going to attract everyone have use cases that work for some, but businesses shouldn't just expect everything to sell at the same rate. It's not going to work like that, especially if the thing they expect to be their standard is a revolutionary device like a smartphone which has achieved extreme levels of market penetration.

  14. Rich 10

    I started out with a Kobo, transitioned to a Nexus 7 2012, and now have a Samsung 8" - I don't want to pay for a $600+ phablet with a screen too small to easily read a book, which my tablet provides and is primarily used for - as well as browsing the web and a lot of email (voice to text is convenient)

    My phone is a device for calls and a camera combo that can do basic internet stuff if needed. My tablet has supplanted my notebook because it is so much more portable and powerful enough to do a lot of the notebook based stuff of years gone by. The notebook sits in the case like a the just in case fire extinguisher, waiting for that travel moment, which more and more the tablet has taken the place of.

    If I am at home, I would much rather work on my 8700k desktop with dual monitors than the 15.6" laptop that cost as much as the upgrade to the 8700k.

    Long live the $300 8" tablet!

  15. butmonkeh

    Very niche case here...

    I live off-grid, so power usage is pretty much key to my computing needs.

    I have a Jumper EzPad 4s ($100usd from gearbest). 2gb ram, 32gb eMMC, Atom Cherry-trail, 10" screen. It originally shipped with Win10, which oddly was 'genuine', but never found an update available in the 11 months it ran win10. I used to run Mint in a VM for doing online purchases.

    Last month, I wiped it. Installed Mint 19, with kernel 4.17.x, and it's pretty solid now. Bluetooth keyboard, trackball mouse. It plays older games, browses the web securely, runs kodi linked to the TvHeadend server running on the Odroid C2 (raspberry pi-like device).

    It has an m2 sata connector, and at some point i'll treat it to a 120gb m2 ssd.

    I love this little thing, and judging from the prices of what have been released recently, it'll be my little work-horse for a long time to come.

  16. Raphael

    I see tablets generally falling into to main niche markets: School kids and the Elderly.

    (Disclaimer, I have a Galaxy Tab A 10'1 2016. I'm not a school kid, nor am I elderly, I do have primary school aged kids)

    The kids will generally either be using Chromebooks (not a tablet) or their school will insist on an iPad, so that market is split.

    For the elderly, take my neighbour. She is not very tech aware. She has facebook etc on her phone (a cheap android) installed and setup by her grandkids. She battles with the screen size. She doesn't want a computer or a laptop, she does like my Galaxy Tab with the bluetooth keyboard. The screen is bigger, and it does everything she could want it to do.

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      ...School kids and the Elderly.

      I’m retired myself, and for a number of years have been a volunteer teacher to retirees in Australia. The government has a number of initiatives to get older people online, so that we don’t clutter-up Goverment Offices, as well as other benefits like shopping, banking, staying in touch with relatives, etc.

      Almost always we recommend a tablet to people who are starting out. Windows are is too complex, and unless they have a relative who is computer literate the systems often fall out of use after the user has got into trouble and called out a professional who charges $100+ each time. Tablets generally keep working.

      In out experience we can usually get most people up and running in about 3 afternoons on an iPad; an Android tablet often takes a couple of afternoons more, and does require more “hand holding”.

      I agree that a Bluetooth keyboard can be useful, particularly for older people who learnt to (touch)type on a real typewriter.

  17. tiggity Silver badge

    logistics

    Tablets have a role in logistics.

    Lots of multi drop drivers will run apps on tablets that tell them their mandated route and stop points and what parcel for where and when delivery made have screen for customer to sign (be it by finger or with a stylus) that they have received it.

    Size is advantage as easy to see for driver when its in route mode and easy for customers (e.g. elderly) with vision issues who struggle with smaller screens.

  18. Big_Boomer

    Failure

    These days it seems that any market that is not experiencing double digit growth is an abject failure. I keep hearing people decrying the slowdown in cellphone sales, tablet sales, laptop sales, server sales, desktop sales, etc. yet these are ALL now Mature Markets. That means that if you want double digit growth you are going to have to get off your a**e and invest in some R&D to come up with the "Next Big Thing", and you might start out by finding out what people actually want in their lives, rather than having an idea and then convincing gullible people to want it.

    Tablets are useful and convenient, but they most definitely are not a "have to have". I replaced my 4 year old Galaxy Note 10.1 last year with a Galaxy S2 9.7" and the increase in performance was negligible. I could have bought an S4 but I'm never gonna spend £800 on a tablet or phone. I leave that kind of expenditure to the gadget junkies and fashionistas.

  19. Rainer

    AFAIK, Google has ceased development in Android for tablets

    In that sense, there's really only Apple and Microsoft who actively develop their OS for tablets.

  20. MJI Silver badge

    I want a tablet as

    Phone screen is too small for sensible use. And I want to use it for maps as well.

    Not sure what I would buy but I have noticed

    ASUS do some

    Sony one is very old

    I do tend to like the usabilty of Sony stuff, So was surprised only 1 old tablet.

    Definately could do with something though. I suppose another check of ASUS

  21. strum Silver badge

    There's something wrong with us, when we regard 6m sales (of a fairly expensive item) in a quarter - as some sort of failure.

    These aren't things you should need to change often - if you even need one in the first place.

    If companies can't make a living out of these sales, they deserve to disappear.

  22. deltamind

    Yep

    Using the original ipad air, one of the best devices I ever had. Around 5 years ago I got it!

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