IDC's latest analysis of the tablet market finds that vendors are becoming increasingly stuck between a rock and a hard place, namely smartphones and PCs.
According to the analyst firm, tablet shipments dropped to 40 million units worldwide during the third quarter (Q3) of 2017, a 5.4 percent year-over-year decline. As it turns out, a stabilizing PC market and brisk smartphone sales are taking a toll on the once-hot device class.
For comparison's sake, smartphone shipments jumped to 373.1 million units in Q3, a 7.4 percent improvement from the previous quarter (Q2 2017) and a 2.7 percent increase on a year-over-year basis, observed IDC recently. Although PC shipments are projected to drop to 263 million units this year, compared to 270 million in 2016, the research firm expects the market to bounce back over the next few years as an increasing number of businesses embark on a Windows 10 refresh.
Plus, it doesn't help that owners are holding on to their tablets longer than vendors may like.
"There's a penchant for low-cost slates and this holds true even for premium vendors like Apple," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst at IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers practice, in a statement. "However, many of these low-cost slates are simply long-awaited replacements for consumers as first-time buyers are becoming harder to find and the overall installed base for these devices declines further in the coming years."
Apple remains the number one tablet vendor, with shipments of 10.3 million iPads and more than a quarter (25.8 percent) of the market. The Cupertino, Calif. device managed to move 11.4 percent more iPads in Q3 2017 than the same year-ago quarter.
Second-place Samsung saw its tablet shipments shrink 7.9 percent, from 6.5 million units in Q3 2016 to 6 million in Q3 2017. Amazon, meanwhile, experienced a 38.7 percent surge from 3.1 million to 4.4 million units.
IDC credits the ecommerce giant's "aggressive hardware strategy" and doorbuster pricing for Amazon's recent successes.
"The low-cost hardware push has always been a means to create a long-standing and ongoing relationship with end users," stated IDC. "To that extent, Amazon even offered the 7-inch tablet for under $30 during the Prime Day Sale."
China's Huawei and Lenovo tied for fourth place, each shipping an estimated 3 million units last quarter. Both have focused their efforts on providing low-cost hardware to Western Europe and Asia-Pacific countries, noted IDC.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.