IDC: Apple iPad continues to lead in worldwide market share

The worldwide tablet market recorded lower shipments for the fourth straight quarter with 48.7 million units shipped in the third quarter of 2015 (3Q15), according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. Despite signs of a slight seasonal improvement, shipments were down -12.6% year over year, further highlighting the challenges the tablet market is facing.

At the close of 2014, IDC estimated the installed base of tablets to be 581.9 million globally, which was up 36% from 2013 but slowing quickly. With mature markets like North America, Western Europe, and Asia/Pacific well past 100 million active tablets per region, the opportunities for growth are getting fewer.

“We continue to get feedback that tablet users are holding onto devices upwards of four years,” said Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, in a statement. “We believe the traditional slate tablet has a place in the personal computing world. However, as the smartphone installed base continues to grow and the devices get bigger and more capable, the need for smaller form factor slate tablets becomes less clear. With shipment volumes slowing over four consecutive quarters, the market appears to be in transition.”

Apple's all-new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil
Apple’s all-new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil
In response to these challenges, the industry is seeing growing interest from vendors in new form factors, with detachable tablets becoming a clear focus for many. While detachable tablets have held just a single digit percentage of the overall tablet market, IDC expects this share to increase dramatically over the next 18 months. However, the shift toward detachables presents some new challenges. In particular, the mix of traditional PC OEMs that are evolving their portfolios to include detachables will face pressure from the traditional smartphone OEMs, many of which have become accustomed to delivering extremely low-cost products.

“The first generation of detachable tablets failed to gain much traction, as they represented a series of compromises in terms of both operating system and hardware that few consumers or businesses were willing to accept,” said Tom Mainelli, Program Vice President, Devices & Displays at IDC, in a statement. “The devices shipping now represent a clear evolution of both OS and hardware, and it’s our expectation that both home and pro users will begin to embrace the form factor in larger numbers going forward.”

Tablet Vendor Highlights

Apple continues to hold the top position in the worldwide tablet market despite a unit shipment decline YOY. The impending launch of the iPad Pro may serve as a silver lining as the market shifts towards productivity-enabling devices.

Samsung‘s everlasting marketing push has once again helped close the gap between itself and top rival Apple, however the bulk of their shipments have focused on the low end. The market’s shift towards detachables has also piqued Samsung’s interest as the vendor continues to launch new devices like the Tab S2 with an optional keyboard to cater to this growing segment.

Lenovo finally felt the sting of a slowing market after numerous quarters of positive growth. In this down market, Lenovo’s flat growth should be viewed as a positive sign that the vendor is committed to being a market leader and has the means to achieve that goal.

Asus’ reputation for low-cost detachable devices helped drive volume over the past year. However, this quarter the vendor has struggled to maintain momentum in the detachable market as its refresh (earlier this year) of the Transformer lineup hasn’t been as successful and, more importantly, other vendors have been able to offer similar devices at comparable price points. Asus has still been able to capture a spot in the top 5 largely due to its low-cost Android tablet portfolio.

Huawei has been successful in finding its niche – cellular-enabled tablets. With over two-thirds of its tablets being mobile connected, the vendor has been able to appeal to the growing trend of tablets used for voice calling and tablets used in markets with low broadband penetration.

Top Five Tablet Vendors, Shipments, Market Share, and Growth, Third Quarter 2015 (Preliminary Results, Shipments in millions)
IDC: Top Five Tablet Vendors, Shipments, Market Share, and Growth, Third Quarter 2015 (Preliminary Results, Shipments in millions)
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, October 29, 2015

Source: International Data Corporation


  1. Apple must have a very good installed base which will bode well for the future. As many have pointed out in other posts, the refresh rate for tablets is akin to laptops so likely that less than 20% will be updating their iPads in any year.

  2. Yes yes yes. iPads have a much longer life than iPhones like Macs hence slower upgrades and smaller sales. I’m still using iPad 3 but realized I shouldn’t have upgraded to iOS 9 on it as it got even slower (duh). There are still issues with Safari (pinch ‘n zoom crashing anyone?), posting online, etc. that drive me a little bonkers. C’mon Apple spend a little more money and make mobile Safari perfect.

    1. Hmm, actually you sound exactly like someone who likes using his iPad, but is growing frustrated with modern software updates that don’t like three year old hardware. In other words, it’s time to consider a hardware upgrade.

      I gave my iPad 3 to my brother two years ago to replace his aging MacBook. He only used it to pay bills anyway, and occasionally email or chat, so it was a major improvement for him. It had grown annoying to me however, since it couldn’t handle more than a couple of tabs in Safari without reloading from the Internet whenever I switched tabs, and it was an engineering mishmash Apple rushed out mid-year to take advantage of LTE. Oh, and it was heavy and took forever to recharge.

      Once I upgraded to the iPad Air, those issues all dropped away. Now, today, clever programmers are designing adware that severely strains even today’s Safari on today’s hardware, leading to the ad-blocker phenomenon we’re seeing now. I don’t know if the new ad-blocker software will work on your hardware, but you could give it a try.

      I have never had issues with pinch & zoom crashing Safari or my iPad, so I’d reconsider the software load of modern software on your aging hardware.

      Just a thought. You don’t have to wait for your battery to die or hardware to burn up to consider upgrading. Perhaps it’s time to hand it over to someone else who’d love to get it.

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