Tablet sales have cooled off during the first half of 2017 across Australia, with 1.4 million units sold, down 10 per cent from a year ago.
According to new research by Telsyte, the decline was mainly due to easing demand for Android-based tablets, coupled with waning Android support from manufacturers that have shifted focus to Microsoft Windows 10-based touchscreen devices.
Specifically, Android tablet sales declined by 29 per cent compared to the first half of 2016, with many manufacturers holding back the release of new Android tablets, including Google which has not released a new Nexus or Pixel tablet in over 12 months.
"Microsoft seems to be redeeming itself with larger touchscreens despite losing the smartphone platform battle,” Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said.
Looking ahead, Telsyte expects the sales of Windows tablets in Australia to overtake Android by the end of 2017.
In addition, broader tablet sales are expected to pick up, with around 1.7 million units sold in the second half of 2017, an increase of seven per cent over the same period last year.
A return to growth is expected to be driven by consumers replacing aging, unsupported devices or by upgrading to 2-in-1s.
Telsyte’s latest research identified that 2-in-1 tablets, or tablets which can be also used as a computing device, continued growth, with 2-in-1s accounting for a third of tablet sales in the first half of 2017.
“Windows-based devices from a range of manufacturers have clearly benefited from the merging of PC and tablet features, while demand for the iPad Pro has also been increasing as Apple positions its top-of-range products as an all-in-one computing device for the average computer or tablet user,” findings report.
The research also benchmarked Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Lenovo as the top four tablet manufacturers by sales in the first half of 2017, accounting for more than 80 per cent of total units sold.
Telsyte added that it expects the release of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore to not only encourage smartphone upgrades, but also have a positive flow-on effect to tablets sales.
According to research, less than 10 per cent of the current iPad user base is capable of running AR apps developed using Apple’s ARKit, while Google has provided limited guidance on minimum requirements for running ARCore on Android tablets.
However, low-end Android tablets will not provide an adequate AR experience, which depends on powerful CPUs and graphics processing chips.
Instead, Telsyte stated that some AR applications will benefit from a larger display for better viewing and content sharing experiences as most Australians said they intend to use AR mainly on their smartphones and on tablets than on standalone AR headsets or smart glasses.
"While AR has been around for a long time, new developer platforms and better hardware will encourage business investment in the next generation of tablet apps,” Telsyte senior analyst Alvin Lee added.
The Telsyte research also showed that more Australian consumers are opting for 4G/LTE capable tablets and that the trend will likely continue with the availability of shared data plans, larger mobile data caps and the arrival of eSIMs on tablets in the near future.
Optus and Telstra have already forayed into this space, with the telcos launching respective eSIM technologies to connect wearable devices directly to their networks, while extending the owner’s smartphone mobile number to the wearable.