Research firm IDC has lowered its global tablet shipment outlook for 2014 by 5.9 percent.
IDC analysts concluded that the market started cooling down in the first quarter, with an unexpected dip in tablet sales. Much of the drop was caused by phablets, which gained share at the expense of small tablets.
Phablet craze to blame
Shipments of phablets remain strong and there is plenty of growth. Phablets accounted for 4.3 percent of all phones shipped in Q1 2013, but in Q1 2014 their market share was 10.5 percent. IDC now expects tablet makers to shift focus back to bigger devices.
Tablets usually feature screens measuring between 5.5 and 7 inches, in 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratios. Most 7-inch tablets feature 16:10 screens, so in essence they are simply too close to phablets in terms of screen size and bulk. However, 8-inch tablets tend to use 4:3 aspect ratio screens, a form factor pioneered by Apple.
As a result many vendors are pushing 4:3 tablets with screens in the neighbourhood of 8 inches. Another problem is that the tablet is slowly maturing, so product cycles are getting longer.
"Two major issues are causing the tablet market to slow down. First, consumers are keeping their tablets, especially higher-cost models from major vendors, far longer than originally anticipated. And when they do buy a new one they are often passing their existing tablet off to another member of the family," said Tom Mainelli, Program Vice President, Devices & Displays at IDC.
IDC estimates global tablet shipments will hit 245.4 million units this year. Year-to-year growth is forecast at 12.1 percent.
It is still a relatively high growth rate, but it pales in comparison to the 53 percent gain recorded last year.
However, small tablets are getting the worst of it. 7- and 8-inch tablets accounted for about 55 percent of all tablet shipments in 2013, but this year IDC expects their share to drop to 50.8 percent. By 2018 the forecast dips to 44.5 percent.