Smartphone market 'a mess' but annual tablet sales are also down

Apple tops the list for most shipped tablets in 2018, while Huawei increased its smartphone penetration during the year.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Tablet shipments dropped by 11.4 million devices to 173.8 million last year, a report from Strategy Analytics' Connected Computing Devices (CCD) service has shown. It's a similar story for smartphones, with the International Data Corporation (IDC) reporting a 4 percent drop in annual shipments.

But despite the lull, Strategy Analytics believes the tablet market shows signs of recovery.

Of the 173.8 million tablets devices shipped during the year, 54.8 million were accounted for in the fourth quarter -- in line with gift-buying for the holiday season. 55.4 million were shipped in the fourth quarter a year prior.

"The tablet market may be on the road to recovery as several major vendors have strengthened their hand in 2018, cannibalising market share from weaker players and forcing some to consolidate or leave the market entirely," Connected Computing director Eric Smith said.


Fourth-quarter and annual tablet shipments, in millions

With 1.4 billion smartphones shipped in 2018, 60.6 million less than in 2017, IDC said the likelihood of a continued declining market this year is becoming more of a reality.

"Globally the smartphone market is a mess right now," said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. "Outside of a handful of high-growth markets like India, Indonesia, Korea, and Vietnam, we did not see a lot of positive activity in 2018."


Fourth-quarter and annual smartphone shipments, in millions  

According to IDC, lengthened replacement cycles, increasing penetration levels in large markets, as well as political and economic uncertainty contributed to a fifth consecutive quarter of smartphone shipments declining.

In its Preliminary Global Tablet Shipments and Market Share: Q4 2018 Results, Strategy Analytics highlighted that Apple, Huawei, and Microsoft had fruitful fourth quarters where tablet sales were concerned.

Shipments of Apple tablets increased during the three-month period, with the iPad maker sending 14.5 million units across the globe. In the same period a year prior, Apple shipped 13.2 million.

For the year, Apple shipped 44.9 million devices, up from its 2017 total of 43.8 million, allowing it to claim the top spot, with a market share of 25.8 percent for the year

In second, with just over half of Apple's Q4 total, is Samsung, which shipped 7.5 million units during Q4 and 32.1 million for the year. This was 1.3 million less than its 2017 total.

Amazon also had its market share decrease year over year, but it shipped the same amount of devices -- 5.5 million -- in Q4 2018 as it did in Q4 2017.

iOS was the only operating system to experience growth, the report showed. Android still retained its number one spot, losing market share from 62.3 percent in 2017 to 60.2 percent in 2018.

"Apple is attempting to remake the computing market with more mobile iPad Pros for productivity while offering lower priced iPad slates for entertainment," Smith continued. "The slate market is particularly sensitive to price and the Android segment is dominated by slate models."

On the smartphone front, Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo all increased their market share in 2018.

Despite the current spotlight on Huawei, the Chinese giant shipped 51.8 million more smartphones last year than it did in 2017.

Huawei shipped 60.5 million smartphones in the last three months of the year.

Samsung retained top spot, despite having its annual smartphone shipment volume decrease from 318 million in 2017 to 292 million in 2018. Apple also lost market share, shipping 209 million devices last year after totaling 216 million the year prior.

Smartphone fashion show: Nine beautiful smartphones prove they aren't all black slabs


Smartphones: Is there any innovation left in this market?

In this fascinating video roundtable, ZDNet's David Gewirtz, Jason Perlow, and Adrian Kingsley-Hughes sit down to discuss the future of the smartphone. It's not what you may think.

The best tablets for 2018: Our top picks

Tablet sales may be declining, but there are still plenty of viable use cases and many models to choose from. Here's our pick of the best.

The 10 best smartphones of 2018

All significant smartphone launches have now passed and as we approach the end of the year, the ten best shake out after more extended usage of each. All ten phones are excellent and certain aspects make each a possible contender for the top spot.

Laptop makers question the keyboard in an all-glass world
Makers of larger mobile devices are experimenting beyond iPad-like tablets to achieve benefits that the smartphone gained by leaving the keyboard behind.

5G smartphones: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

This comprehensive guide covers plans from leading smartphone vendors as the industry begins wide deployment of 5G mobile networks and devices that leverage them.

Editorial standards