Earlier this week, it was reported that – for the first time – IDC figures for tablet shipments (be it iPad, Windows or Android) had actually fallen year-over-year. Granted, the “slump” was only a 3% drop year-over-year compared to 2014’s figures, but this is a segment that has been rising, and rising, slowly killing the laptop as it goes. So for people to have seemingly lost interest in tablets, even if just a little bit, is somewhat troubling. It’s clear that people just aren’t as excited in tablets any more and it’s a trend I see in my friends and family and even myself. But why are people seemingly fed up with tablets and what can tablet manufacturers do to get people excited again?
To answer my first question, I just have to point the finger at Google and the consistently poor attention given to tablets in general. I have a Nexus 9 and I quite like it, but I don’t really use it that much. Why? Because it’s a giant phone. It’s as simple as that, ever since Google got rid of the Honeycomb UI layout, Android tablets have felt nothing more than giant phones. Sure, it’s a good idea to have the same interface across platforms, but neither should suffer as a result. My Nexus 9 is great for browsing the web and playing games, but outside of that there’s little it can do that my phone can’t do. My Xperia Z2 has a nice 5.2-inch display on it and for reading news and chatting to friends it’s actually become my preferred platform.
Plenty have tried to make Android more productive and given it new powers, with Samsung making the most of the screen real estate with multi-window and the S-Pen, but Google isn’t setting a great example for developers to follow. If Google can’t make decent tablet apps (anyone used Inbox on a tablet?) then why should developers?
On the hardware front, I think people are fed up of larger screens for the sake of it. A 10.1-inch tablet is nice and all, but it’s just a bigger screen, and you can’t take a bigger screen with you everywhere, a 5.5-inch smartphone on the other hand? That should fit in your pocket or jacket quite nicely. Tablets are all much of a muchness these days, with little bit screen resolution and price really separating one from another to the average user, so what can tablet manufacturers do to win people back?
Innovative hardware is the answer I feel, tablets like the Lenovo Yoga line give people a reason to own a tablet. The Yoga line has great battery life, that stand makes them easy to hold and gives them all sorts of uses. You can stand them at an angle on your desk to watch something while working, stand it on your bedside table for a clock or even hang it from something to make great use of this larger display. I don’t think Android tablets suffer from an ecosystem when it comes to content any more, we have all the major services available to us as well as an excellent selection of books and magazines, but many tablets look and feel the same as one another.
We need fresh hardware and fresh features to give users a reason to want a tablet. I bought my Nexus 9 because I felt like I had to have it, and while it’s definitely nice for listening to music in bed and browsing the web to catch up on news and such, I can quite easily live without it. I’m beginning to think I would have been happier with a Lenovo Yoga, with more use cases out of the box, I’d have more reason to want to use it. Lenovo will even sell you a tablet with a projector and a subwoofer in it, the Yoga 13 Pro is a prime example of hardware features that people want to see and will get a lot of use out of.
Lenovo aren’t the only ones though, Samsung and their S-Pen are attractive additions to a relatively mundane experience on Android, but we haven’t seen a new tablet with an S-Pen since the Galaxy Note Pro, which divides people thanks to its size. If users are going to want to buy new tablets, then tablets need to offer something more than just a larger display for the sake of it. Extra features like a subwoofer, project, true pen input and an extra stand are all winning features, but we need to see more of them in more tablets. Hopefully, 2015 is going to be a year of new, cool and interesting stuff in tablets. Otherwise, our phones will get bigger and the tablet might become the new laptop; something for those that need to get work done.