The tablet industry is alive and well, but growth is much slower than the heyday experienced just a couple years ago.
Worldwide tablet shipments grew by 11.5 percent in the third quarter of 2014, according to the latest numbers from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker study. IDC's figures support earlier estimates from Gartner, which expected tablet sales to grow by about 11 percent.
IDC credits the back-to-school season for fueling the quarter's growth, as well as an appetite in the US for connected tablets, where sales of the devices surpassed every other market with an 18 percent year-over-year growth. But the underlying issue for the tablet industry remains the same across the board — consumers are simply holding on to their devices for a longer time.
As for the vendors, Apple maintained its top spot, shipping 12.3 million units for the quarter, despite suffering the largest decline in shipments. During its latest earnings call, a seemingly unconcerned Apple noted that an extended iPad lifecycle, along with consumer reception of the latest iPhones, likely led to the decrease in iPad shipments. IDC expects the new batch of iPhones to continue to impact iPad sales for the remainder of 2014.
Samsung held its number two position on the market with 9.9 million device shipments, resulting in an 18 percent market share for the quarter — a slight decline compared to last year. IDC said Samsung is slowly beginning to focus on markets like North America and the Middle East and Africa, where low-cost Asian vendors have yet to make significant headway.
ASUS was able to leapfrog Lenovo to land itself in the number three spot, with 3.5 million units shipped and a 6.5 percent market share. IDC said the gain was fueled by the popularity of Windows-based 2-in-1 devices.
Even though Lenovo fell back to the number four position, it wasn't far behind ASUS, with roughly 3 million units shipped in the quarter. IDC credits Lenovo's strength in emerging markets for its nearly 30 percent growth, as well as the company's new-found branding success, in which the vendor relied on the notoriety of its PCs to boost tablet sales. As an interesting side note, Lenovo just today completed its purchase of Motorola from Google.
Rounding out the top five is a new, and surprising, entrant: RCA. With 2.6 million units shipped primarily in the US, IDC said the vendor's low-cost devices were a hit with back-to-school shoppers, especially considering the vendor inked a distribution deal with a slew of top retailers.
"Although the low-cost vendors are moving a lot of volume, the top vendors, like Apple, continue to rake in the dollars," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for the Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. "A sub-$100 tablet simply isn't sustainable — Apple knows this — and it's likely the reason they aren't concerned with market share erosion."