IDC: Apple iPad’s hold on the tablet market remains unchallenged

Consumer spending during the holiday quarter of 2016 was clearly not aimed at consuming tablets as the market continued its decline. The fourth quarter of 2016 marked the ninth consecutive quarter that tablet shipments have declined. According to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, vendors shipped 52.9 million tablets in the fourth quarter, which was a decline of 20.1% from the same quarter one year ago. Similarly, shipments of 174.8 million units for the full year 2016 were down 15.6% compared to 2015, marking the second straight year of declining shipments.

“The sentiment around the tablet market continues to grow stale despite a lot of talk about vendors pivoting their product portfolios toward the detachable segment,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, in a statement. “Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions and, as a result, we see the decline happening globally. We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don’t equate to large revenues.”

Vendors that have historically led the notebook PC market are also talking about expanding their product portfolios to include more detachable tablets, although currently there is more talk than action. As a result, Apple and Microsoft are dominating the detachable tablet segment. IDC believes the second half of 2017 will bring a wide range of new detachable devices from the notebook PC OEMs as well as those playing primarily in the smartphone space.

Yet even detachable tablets struggled to maintain momentum in the fourth quarter as flagship products from key players like Microsoft and Apple started to show signs of age. “The market continues to warm up to two-in-one devices, but we’re now getting to a point where the price and performance disparity between detachables and convertibles has started to narrow, and this added competition led to a dampening in the growth of detachable tablets,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. “However, we expect this to be temporary as only two of the three major platforms have any significant hardware presence in the detachable market, and as the ecosystems are further refined with future updates and developer support.”

Apple's iPad Pro with Apple Smart Keyboard
Apple's iPad Pro with Apple Smart Keyboard

Tablet Vendor Highlights

Apple‘s venerable hold on the tablet market is yet to be challenged although the company is not immune to overall market challenges, declining 18.8% in 4Q16. The iPad Pro lineup made up only a small portion of overall shipments as the iPad Air 2 and Mini tablets continued to account for the majority of the shipments for Apple. For every 10 slate tablets shipped, Apple only sold 1 iPad Pro tablet.

Samsung remained the number two tablet vendor in the holiday season capturing 15.1% market share on 8 million shipments. The bad news is that this was down -11.4% from the holiday quarter in 2015. The Tab S2 and Tab A continue to be the strongest models for Samsung and its largest markets for tablet consumption continue to be the United States, Europe, and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan).

Amazon‘s Fire tablets continued their hot streak, earning the company third place overall in 4Q16. The already low cost tablets were further discounted during the Black Friday sales period although this was still not enough to stave off an annual decline. However, it is important to note that Amazon is in the unique position where tablet market share is likely not of significant importance as the company remains highly focused on acquiring additional Prime subscribers regardless of the type of device used.

Lenovo was one of the two vendors to grow in the 4Q16 and managed to gain 2.1 percentage points in 4Q16 over the same period in 2015. With a broad lineup and innovative designs, IDC expects this vendor will be one to watch in 2017.

Outside of price, Huawei‘s value proposition is cellular connectivity and this was evidenced in their portfolio as the majority of their tablets offered built-in 3G or 4G connectivity. To date, the Chinese company has done well in expanding their reach to Asian, European, and Middle Eastern markets, though their tablet presence in the U.S. is close to non-existent.

IDC: Top Five Tablet Vendors, Shipments, Market Share, and Growth, Fourth Quarter 2016 (Preliminary Results, Shipments in millions)

IDC: Top Five Tablet Vendors, Shipments, Market Share, and Growth, 2016 (Preliminary Results, Shipments in millions)

• Total tablet market includes slate tablets plus detachable tablets. References to “tablets” in this release include both slate tablets and detachable devices.
• Detachable Tablets (detachables) are tablets that offer a first party keyboard that can be completely detached from the slate portion. Examples include Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad Pro.
• Convertibles are Notebook PCs (excluded from tablet market size) where the keyboard may flip/spin/slide such that the device may be used in a tablet configuration. However, the keyboard remains permanently attached to the device. Examples include Lenovo Yoga 910 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.
• Data is preliminary and subject to change.
• Vendor shipments are branded device shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.
• The “Vendor” represents the current parent company (or holding company) for all brands owned and operated as subsidiary.

Source: International Data Corporation

MacDailyNews Take: For all of the hyperbolic blather about Microsoft’s Surface tablet in certain tech blogs, paid placements on NFL sidelines, etcetera, they’re not even in the top five. Even Huawei’s crap is outselling Microsoft’s Surface.


  1. The iPad is the only good tablet on the market. Period.

    And it’s the only one making real profits.

    The issue with the iPad is that the replacement cycle is more likely the computer, rather than the iPhone. People just don’t feel need to always update.

    1. Exactly. My iPad Air will be 4 later this year, and I hate that it has slowed down with each iOS update (as is always the case). Also as websites get heavier with more ads and content (Hey MDN looking at YOU!), Safari performance suffers more on older iPads. I don’t want to have to replace it with an new iPad this year because its getting old or slow. I hope iOS 11 or whatever doesn’t kill it the way iOS 5 killed my original iPad.
      It would be nice if it could make it to a 5 full years while still being fully usable and not suffer from performance lag etc. I think that’s a completely fair expectation for something I spent almost $1000 on !
      I would however love to get a 12.9″ iPad Pro, but its too expensive.

    2. I would maybe try the iPad if it had two things. One, give me the ability to manually control my data and save to a USB thumb drive. Two, when I plug the iPad into OS X or Windows, have it mount as a USB drive and when you open the drive the window should display folders for each thing like Photos, Contacts, Messages, Movies, Applications with the applications folders if they have data, etc and again let the user have manual control. If it had those two things it would be a game changer for iOS, I think anyway. I have shared my views with Jobs and Cook and we got iCloud Drive and is a step closer. But think it could be better.

      1. I moved everything to Dropbox: music, photos, files, videos. Everything. Now I have all of my data on all of my devices wherever I go, and can even access it if I have to use a windows machine (god help me, and only after first installing some security apps so I can trust the machine a little). It’s not quite the same as having a customizable, dedicated file system like macOS, but it gives me the flexibility I need to do about 95% of my work on my iPad Pro. With its cell connection, that’s a pretty powerful thing.

        Now, trusting Dropbox could be another thing for you 🙂

  2. The iPad Pro display is the same size as a 13″ MacBook Pro. It is way too expensive.
    256 GB with LTE $1129
    Pencil $ 99 (Grossly overpriced)
    Keyboard/Cover $169 (exceptionally overpriced)
    2 Meter USB C to Lightning Cable $29 ($30 for a cable ?)
    29 Watt USBC Power Adapter $49 ( needed unless you have all day for a recharge with the included adapter- approved for use by Apple)
    Total $1475.00 before taxes

    That is $24 less than a MacBook Pro

    Apple needs to get the price down. Way down.

      1. I’m the guy who wants the mini, and I do have an iPhone 7Plus.

        Your opinion is with majority, no doubt, or we’d have seen one sooner. Doesn’t stop me from wanting it.

  3. I get cheesed off when it declares that the world is warming up to 2-in-1s. Or when a company declares how convertibles are rapidly growing in popularity.

    But in every tech or department store I go into, they’re virtually the only bloody computers on sale. They seem to be the only ones being made. A customer has pretty much no choice but to buy a 2-in-1 because that’s only what’s on offer.

    So to claim their popularity is growing among consumers is false. Their choice has already been made for them.

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