The big bucks are going on smaller and cheaper tablets this holiday season

October 21, 2013

Relaying its findings from third quarter update on 'Devices by Operating System and User Type', the research firm says that worldwide combined sales of devices (PCs, tablets and mobile phones) is projected to reach a staggering 2.32 billion units in 2013, representing a 4.5% rise from 2012.

Gartner says that this incline is being driven by lower-priced devices “across all areas”, and this seems particularly true when it comes to tablets.

Small tablets hit the big time

The firm predicts that tablet shipments will jump 42.7% to 184 million units this year but says that the increasingly niche “premium” segment will continue to face price erosion as consumers opt for smaller – and cheaper – form factors.

This seems to corroborate a previous Gartner study, which found that 47% of 21,500 consumers owned a tablet with a screen that was 8-inches or less, and backs up claims from other researchers that smaller tablets rule the roost.

“Smaller 7-inch class tablets are finally the majority of shipments,” said ABI Research’s Jeff Orr last month. “The 7.9-inch iPad mini represented about 60% of total iPad shipments and 49% of iPad-related device revenues in the quarter."

As further evidence of this trend, other analysts have bet that the forthcoming iPad mini 2 will outsell the iPad 5 by a factor of 2:1, while Gartner itself recently said that most tablet buyers now prioritize price over brand name.

Gartner expects this trend to stay true over the holiday season, even if some tablet vendors are desperately hoping that hybrid tablets like Microsoft’s Surface and Lenovo’s Thinkpad Yoga, catch the public’s attention.

"While consumers will be bombarded with ads for the new ultra mobile devices, we expect their attention to be grabbed but not necessarily their money," said Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi.

"Continuing on the trend we saw last year, we expect this holiday season to be all about smaller tablets as even the long-term holiday favourite — the smartphone — loses its appeal.

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PCs – and even smartphones – will be left on retail shelves

However, if Gartner’s report gave a rosy outlook for the future of standalone, most likely Android, tablets, it painted a darker and less optimistic picture for mobile phones and conventional PCs.

The firm forecast that PC shipments will drop 11.2% year-on-year to 303 million units this year, or by 8.4% when including the slightly-more desirable ‘ultraportable PCs’.

Gartner certainly isn’t alone in predicting the PC’s demise – Apple boss Tim Cook is betting on tablets overtaking PCs by 2015, while Lenovo — the world’s largest PC vendor – says that its smartphones and tablets are now outselling its PCs.

Things aren’t quite as bad for mobile phone shipments, which are expected to grow 3.7% to 1.8 billion units by the end of the year. The firm says though that the “opportunity for high-average selling price smartphones is ending”, and expects future growth to come from mid-tier vendors and low-end phones in emerging markets.

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