ipad_miniA big slowdown in tablet growth is coming this year, as market growth slows to 7.2 percent, down sharply from 52.5 percent in 2013, according to a new forecast from IDC. At the core of the abrupt, sharp slowdown, shipments of Apple iPhones will experience their first full year of decline.

The slowdown in tablet shipments isn’t surprising, IDC comments, given that tablet lifecycles “have continued to lengthen, increasingly resembling those of PCs more than smartphones.

“The tablet market continues to be impacted by a few major trends happening in relevant markets,” Ryan Reith, program director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. “In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every 2-3 years.

“What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than 3 years and in some instances more than 4 years. We believe the two major drivers for longer than expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks.”

There has been substantial innovation in tablet forms and form factors recently, IDC highlights. Advancements in 2-in-1, or detachable, tablets, while tablets have also gotten thinner, “prices have come down, and more models are available.”

2-in-1 Tablets
Shipments of 2-in-1 tablets will only reach 8.7 million units this year, just 4 percent of the total tablet plus 2-in-1 market. “Consumer hesitancy around the Windows 8 platform,” which accounts for the majority of 2-in-1 tablets, is a big reason for the relatively small uptake among consumers, according to IDC.

“We need to look at how the tablet ecosystem is answering these challenges, and right now we see a lot of pressure on tablet prices and an influx of entry-level products, which ultimately serves Android really well,” IDC Research Director for Tablets Jean Philippe Bouchard commented. “But we also see tablet manufacturers trying to offset this price pressure by focusing on larger screens and cellular-enabled tablets. The next six months should be really interesting.”

Industry reaction to the introduction of Windows 10, Google’s efforts to boost Android and Chrome OS and rumors of Apple expanding its product line are among the unknowns that could impact tablet shipments going forward, IDC highlights. “Despite all of these unknowns, it seems clear that consumers can be expected to hold onto tablets longer than smartphones.”