A few interesting research reports were published over the past few days and they seem to prove what many in the tech press have been saying for much of 2013 – dirt cheap tablets are disrupting the market. It was relatively easy to dismiss white-box tablet makers from mainland China last year, but just a year later they seem to be making a killing.
According to NPD DisplaySearch, shipments of tablet PC panels started recovering in July, but much of the growth is coming from 7-inch panels, which made up a staggering 49 percent of all panel shipments.
“Low-priced white-box brands accounted for 59 percent of 7-inch panels and 43 percent of all tablet PC panel shipments in July,” said NPD.
Apple is of course still the biggest player and one in four tablet panels ends up in an iPad. However, this is changing, too. The current iPad line-up is ready for a refresh, so demand is pretty soft. In fact, according to another report out of ABI Research, Android tablets surpassed iOS tablets in the second quarter, while revenues reached parity and the average selling price of the iPad tumbled 17 percent, thanks to the iPad mini.
“Smaller 7-inch class tablets are finally the majority of shipments,” said ABI’s Jeff Orr. “The 7.9-inch iPad mini represented about 60 percent of total iPad shipments and 49 percent of iPad-related device revenues in the quarter.”
What’s more, Apple’s iPad line accounted for just 50 percent of worldwide end-user revenues. Naturally, Apple’s numbers will improve in Q4, as it introduces the new iPad 5 and iPad mini 2.
The rumour mill is happily chugging along, too. There’s talk of lower than expected Nexus 7 2 shipments, weak sales of flagship Android tablets and so on. It all paints a rather bleak picture for big brand tablets who rushed into the $199 tablet space after the Nexus 7 hype last summer. A few analysts like Andy Hargreaves of Pacific Crest Securities told CNBC that the tablet market has already overheated and it will slow down fast. Pacific Crest recently slashed its 2013 tablet forecast from 169 million units to 151 million. Most of the cut came from Apple.
People who are in the market for a cheap 7-incher want exactly that – a cheap tablet. Not a $229 Nexus 7, Tegra Note, Asus MeMO Pad, or god forbid an Intel Windows tablet. They want something at half the price, they are not interested in value added features, gimmicks or top of the line performance – just a nice screen.
Ironically, supermarket chain Tesco seems to have figured it out before the heavyweights - it's a race to the bottom. As of today it’s selling a £119 tablet with a 1440x900 screen, no bells and whistles. Leave it to a grocer to teach the tech industry a lesson.