The tablet market continues to cool as demand in mature markets like the U.S. and Western Europe flattens out. Following a second straight quarter of softening sales, research firm IDC on Friday again lowered its worldwide forecast for tablet growth to 6.5% from 12.1% previously. The new estimate is also well below the 22.5% growth that IDC had projected for 2014 at the end of last year.
The updated outlook signals a sharp decline in tablet demand in mature regions — from 25% growth in 2013 to none this year. Analysts have cited the rise of phablets, or large-screen smartphones, such as Samsung’s popular Galaxy line of phones, as a factor behind the dropoff in tablet sales.
Apple is expected to join that group soon with the release of a new iPhone model featuring a 5.5-inch screen.
In addition, replacement cycles for tablets have also been longer than anticipated, at close to three years. And devices are typically handed off to another family member or someone else when a new one is purchased.
While sales for tablets, along with 2-in-1 devices like’s Microsoft’s Surface, will level off this year in North America and Western Europe, 12% growth is projected for the rest of the world.
"When we look at the global picture, it would be easy to say that the tablet market is slowing down," stated Jean Phillipe Bouchard research director for tablets, at IDC. "But, when we start digging into the regional dynamics, we realize that there is still a good appetite for this product category.
The firm expects falling prices for smaller-screen tablets (under eight inches) and evolving usage patterns will drive demand in emerging markets. While average selling prices in mature markets will stabilize at $373 this year, average prices elsewhere will decline 10% to $302. The IDC report also noted growing shipments in the Asia/Pacific region (excluding japan) for tablets with a voice calling option.
“This trend suggests that end users in this region are looking for a single device that can meet their needs in terms of voice communication and media consumption, and for some that single device is a tablet and not a smartphone,” it stated.
Looking further ahead, IDC projects growth even in less developed markets will slow to 5% by 2018—about the same level as the 4% growth expected in North America and Western Europe by then.