PC sales are down, but tablets are holding up - here's why

Economic uncertainty took a toll on the tablet and PC markets. Despite that, the tablet market in Q4 2022 continued to grow while PCs suffered heavy declines.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
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PC and tablet sales have been hit by the economic downturn, but innovation and good-value deals are helping to keep people keen on new devices -- especially tablets.

At the end of last year, Canalys, Gartner, and IDC data indicated that PC shipments fell significantly, showcasing how economic uncertainty affected the market's stability. Last year, PC and tablet shipments were 434.5 million units, down 13% from 2021's almost half a billion shipments.

Despite a slowdown in demand for laptops and monitors, tablets continued to experience a slight but steady increase in shipments in the fourth quarter. In Q4 of 2022, tablet shipments grew by 1%, with an annual total of 42.3 million units, according to Canalys. Tablet sales in 2022 overall were down 5% from 2021, with a total of 150.8 million tablets shipped.

According to Himani Mukka, an analyst at Canalys, consumers continued to purchase tablets when the products showcased "compelling innovation in the space." Mukka said steep price cuts swayed consumers to buy tablets during the previous holiday season. 

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Apple held onto its number-one spot in the tablet market, as it was responsible for shipping 19 million units and 46% of market share. Mukka said Apple's newest 10th-gen iPad offered consumers a new design and improved performance, making the device more likely to be purchased.

Source: Canalys

Amazon shipped 3.5 million units in Q4 of 2022, primarily because of its Prime Day and Black Friday sales that offered massive discounts on Fire tablets.

Conversely, personal computers suffered steep declines in shipments and purchasing, as total shipments in 2022 were almost 50% lower than in 2021. Ishan Dutt, senior analyst at Canalys, attributes "return to normal" initiatives to a decline in PC shipments.

As people return to offices, grade schools, and universities, the demand for PCs -- such as Chromebooks -- fell for a sixth consecutive year. In 2022, 17.7 million Chromebooks were shipped, a 48% drop from the previous year.

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"Significant growth is only likely to arise in 2024 as devices bought during the pandemic peak reach the end of their lifespans," Dutt said. "There will also be an opportunity to deliver higher value products as students and teachers have developed stronger expectations for devices that are being used on such a frequent basis."

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