Will 2015 continue to be the year of the device?


Contradicting reports currently abound in the mobile industry as to whether or not next year will see a huge rise in the number of tablets and smartphones being used, or if they (particularly tablets) have had their day, with only a small rise on this year.

Tablets and smartphones will get cheaper and more accessible, so you might think its a no brainer.

But it’s more complex than that. Let’s take a look, as it’s important to the news media industry when predicting next year’s budgets and reader usage on such devices.

Global tablet sales are set to overtake PC sales for the first time in 2015, despite a “relative revival” (Gartner phrase) of the PC market next year. This is according to the research company themselves, Gartner.

It says that in 2015, tablet sales will reach more than 320 million units, and 316 million PC units are expected to be shipped. Thats globally.

But while tablet sales are set to overtake PC sales, the tablet market is expected to experience a “relative slowdown” in 2014 to reach 256 million units. This is still an increase of 24% over 2013.

The small slowdown in penetration has been seen partly on lower demand from users for tablets in smaller screens (in mature markets) and the shift toward phablets (i.e. a cross between a phone and a tablet, which has a slightly larger screen) in places like Southeast Asia.

Gartner’s prediction of a slowdown is also in line with CCS Insight’s predictions earlier in 2014.

Though Im writing this blog piece from a tablet, that company estimates that the UK tablet market, for instance, is set to slump this year as “buyer’s remorse” (interesting phraseology?) strikes consumers who initially bought low-end/low-quality devices.

Gartner, however predicts that the next wave of tablets will be driven by lower price points, rather than “superior functionality.”

While the traditional PC market continues its decline, this year will see what they call a “relative revival” for the sector ahead.

After declining 9.3% in 2013, the global PC market is on pace to shrink just 2.9% in 2014. Sales are then expected to increase 2.7% year-on-year in 2015. So, the PC ain’t dead yet!

Gartner also says business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will shorten the downward trend (especially in Europe). This year, it anticipates nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in those mature markets.

Additionally, Gartner estimates smartphone sales will represent 88% of global mobile handset sales by 2018, up from 66% this year. That’s huge!

Sales of mobile phones are expected to increase 3.1% year-on-year to 1.9 billion units in 2014. Allowing one-for-one (and I accept that some people have more then one phone), that’s nearly one-third of the people on Planet Earth! Staggering.

Android and iOS are driving smartphone sales, but Gartner says that Windows Phones will also exhibit strong growth (albeit from a low base in 2014), and are projected to reach 10% market share by 2018 (up from 4% this year).

Microsoft, which now owns Windows Phone (having recently completed its acquisition of Nokia’s devices and services business), hopes it will strengthen its position in the extremely competitive smartphone market. (Gartner says that will happen, but this is obviously still not a serious threat to the dominance of iOS and Android).

So there you have it. If you’re wondering how your readers will consume your content next year (and beyond), it seems tablets will still be a major force, and smartphones will continue to grow rapidly.

Concentrate on Apple and Google products (but keep one eye on Microsoft, too).

What is also likely is that readers will want more “bang for their buck” from their tablet (i.e better functionality, better experience, and better interactivity, despite wanting them cheaper). Oh, and dont forget to include the PC still as part of your mix!

Finally, if you’re in Southeast Asia particularly, phablets will continue to rise at the expense of the now “traditional” larger iPad size. Deloittes Duncan Stewart said at the IMMA conference in San Francisco this year, that phablets won’t dominate globally, but they will be big enough and be dominant in some markets to create what they call a “mass niche.”

Maybe Apple knew all along?

Maybe that’s why it introduced the iPad mini?

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