Why Australians aren’t buying tablets any more

Angus Kidman 19 April 2016

TabletTime

Sales have slumped, while 2-for-1 laptop/tablet combos are our new go-to device.

Apple didn't invent the notion of the tablet computer, but the iPad was the first one to sell in massive quantities. But that trend started a long time ago (2010, to be exact). These days, we're a lot less excited about tablets.

An analysis of the Australian market by research firm Telsyte shows that we're buying fewer of them. 3.1 million sold in Australia in 2015, which was a 34% drop from 3.8 million. Apple has 48.7% of the market, followed by Android (35.7%) and Windows (16.5%).

So why are we less keen? There are several issues. For starters, it turns out that most people don't upgrade their tablets nearly as often as they update their smartphone. We want a new iPhone or Galaxy every time one emerges, but we're happy to skip several tablet generations.

That makes sense: you use your phone every day and carry it everywhere with you, which means that you demand more of it and you're more likely to break it. Chances are that your tablet sits by the lounge where you occasionally use it to look up the name of an actor on IMDb or squeezing in rounds of Candy Crush, and perhaps makes an occasional trip so you can watch movies on a bargain airline.

Secondly, the emergence of "phablets" -- phones with 5.7-inch or bigger screens -- means that some of us don't see the need for a separate tablet device at all. Even Apple eventually surrendered to this trend with the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus. (And yes, "phablets" is an ugly word, but that's what they're called. Sometimes you just have to grind your teeth through the linguistic pain.)

Finally, we're seeing increased demand for 2-in-1 laptop/tablet combos, which can serve either as a tablet or a full-blown notebook. Think of the Microsoft Surface, Apple's iPad Pro or even Google's Pixel C. None of these are as cheap as a basic Android tablet, but they're powerful and desirable and you can use them for work and fun. The success of the Surface is a major reason why the Windows share of the tablet market has almost doubled in Australia, up from 8.2% in 2014 to 16.5% in 2015.

Tablets certainly aren't dead; 3.1 million is still a lot of devices. But rather than killing off the PC entirely, they've mated with it. It's the age of the hybrid.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

Picture: Shutterstock

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