Apple remains king of a deregulated tablet market

Despite a drop in iPad sales in the fourth quarter of 2021, Apple still dominates the tablet market. Better armed than the competition, the brand resisted the shortage of components.

The touch pad is definitely not a product like the others. Its market is very different from that of the smartphone and it quickly slowed down after rapid growth in the early 2010s. Tablets, however, saw a surge in terms of sales in 2020, following the health crisis and its confinements. The period reminded us that a tablet could establish itself as an excellent tool for telecommuting or entertainment. A short-lived rebound for tablets (and Chromebooks) which failed to confirm last year and ran into semiconductor shortages.

After a euphoric 2020, the tablet falls into line

The latest study from IDC confirms the trend, with an 11.9% year-on-year decline and 46 million units sold in the fourth quarter of 2021. Still at the top, the iPad fell from 19, 1 million units in 2020 to 17.5 million units in the last three months of 2021 (-8.6%). Despite a decline in sales, Apple’s slate still dominates the market with 38% market share compared to 36.6% at the same period in 2020.

This halt in the progress of the iPad had already been mentioned by Apple when announcing the results of its first fiscal quarter of 2022. The Cupertino company explained that sales of its tablet had fallen by 14.07 %, at $7.248 billion. An expected drop for the Californian company which had decided to favor other devices for the holiday season.

Apple limits breakage, not its pursuers

The situation is far from being alarming for Apple which has done more than resist, which is not the case for its main competitors. Other tablet makers had a tough quarter, with Samsung, Lenovo and Huawei posting declines of 21.6%, 25.4% and 13.9% year-on-year, respectively. Apple’s closest competitor, Samsung, held 15.9% market share in Q4 2021 while Lenovo had 10% market share.

Over the full year, the volume of tablets shipped reached 168.8 million units, up 3.2% year-on-year. For the next twelve months, the segment should still benefit from the effects of the health crisis. “While 2021 was a great year for the tablet market, shipments have started to slow as the market has exceeded peak demand in many geographies”says Anuroopa Nataraj, analyst at IDC. “However, shipments for the near future will remain above pre-pandemic levels as digital learning, remote working and media consumption remain priorities for users”.

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