This year, the number of tablet users is set to grow to more than one billion – that’s more than twice as many users as this time three years ago, and almost 15 per cent of the world’s population.
That’s according to the latest estimates from eMarketer, a research firm specializing in digital marketing. This is the first year that eMarketer has been tracking numbers for the world’s tablet users, and it seems consumers are still eager to get their hands on tablets, especially as prices continue to come down due to fierce competition among vendors.
Still, as you might expect, the number of tablet users will definitely plateau at some point. While eMarketer is predicting the number of tablet users will surge this year by 17.1 per cent, in past years, that figure was much higher – 54.1 per cent in 2013, and 29.1 per cent a year later.
One reason behind the drop-off in the number of users is that the market is getting pretty crowded. At this year’s CES alone, Lenovo introduced a slew of new tablet-laptop hybrids meant to appeal to users who want the portability of a tablet, combined with the efficiency of a laptop. Dell also launched a super-slim, 3D-enabled tablet as a bid to offer something unique.
And while it’s true the number of smartphone users worldwide is still growing, the reasons for the growth in that space are pretty different compared to what’s happening for tablets. Smartphones are bolstered by new buyers in developing markets where a smartphone can be a user’s lifeline to the Internet, especially if they can’t afford PCs or laptops. That’s not the case for tablets, as many users feel they can just get a bigger phone, or even a phablet, and not bother with a seven-inch or 10-inch device. And even in developed markets like Japan and South Korea, where tablet adoption has come a little later, consumers may also opt to skip purchasing tablets and save their money for connected TVs and gaming devices.
In other words, consumers may decide they just don’t have a need for tablets – and by 2018, the number of tablet users is only expected to grow by 7.9 per cent. By then, almost 20 per cent of the world’s population will be made up of habitual tablet users.
“The most limiting factor is the use case for a tablet: It is not as clear-cut or compelling as a communication tool—the core capability and use case for a smartphone,” said Cathy Boyle, senior analyst at eMarketer, in a statement.
“The shared nature of tablets and increased competition from other connected devices reduce the likelihood that the tablet audience will match the size of the smartphone audience worldwide.”
By the end of this year, China is expected to be the world’s stronghold of tablet users, with more than 328 million Chinese consumers using tablets at least once a month. That accounts for about one-third of the world’s tablet users, far beyond any other country in the world.