Tablets have officially entered their fourth consecutive year of decline, according to a new study conducted by International Data Corporation. The fourth quarter of 2017 was also the thirteenth one in a row that saw global tablet shipments drop year-on-year, amounting to 49.6 million units in total, a 7.9-percent annual drop. The original equipment manufacturer that increased its yearly performance by the most significant margin was Amazon whose shipments surpassed 7.7 million tablets over the three-month period ending December 31st, a spike of over 50-percent. The Seattle, Washington-based tech giant hence overtook Samsung as the world's second largest tablet vendor in the final quarter of the last year, whereas Apple is still leading the market with 13.2 million units shipped in Q4 2017, 0.6-percent up compared to the same period last year. Huawei was the only remaining OEM with improved shipments, having grown its business by 11.9-percent during the quarter which amounted to 3.5 million slates shipped during the period.
The declining interest in traditional Android tablets is described as the main cause of the continuing trend, with consumers largely being unfazed by such offerings due to the increasing sizes of smartphone screens and increased accessibility of notebooks. The most improved segment in the product category is that of detachables, i.e. tablets that come with keyboards such as Microsoft's Surface Pro lineup, with IDC's findings suggesting 6.5 million such devices shipped in the final three months of 2017, representing an annual increase of 10.3-percent. The research firm believes Samsung will be one of the most fiercely challenged tablet manufacturers going forward as its Galaxy Tab A and E series are still losing steam due to more aggressively priced competitors, even though its Galaxy Tab S lineup is gaining some momentum together with other detachables. Despite declining performance, Samsung still held nearly 15-percent of the market in Q4 2017 by shipments, with Apple accounting for almost a quarter of it.
Both IDC and other research firms are predicting tablets will continue losing traction moving forward, though estimates regarding the actual number of shipments for 2018 vary, with some of the most skeptical analysts suggesting tablets may soon drop close to the 100-million mark on an annual basis. Over the entire 2017, OEMs shipped 163.5 million tablets, thus experiencing a 6.5-percent decline compared to 2016, according to IDC. This year's first prominent Android tablets and detachables are likely to be announced late this month at Barcelona, Spain-based MWC 2018.