Apple iPads continue to lead the shrinking tablet market

It hasn't even been half a year since IDC and other market analysts started reporting a slight reprieve for tablet manufacturers. Defying quarter after quarter of trends, the tablet market grew just a little bit in the third quarter of 2019. That might have just been a fluke, however, as the numbers now return to its downward slope in the last quarter of 2019, despite the usual sales surge brought about by the holiday shopping spree.

Whatever gains the tablet market gained in 2019 Q3 were almost lost three months after, with IDC reporting a decline of 1.5% for the whole year of 2019 compared to 2018. The decline by quarter was admittedly smaller this time, only 0.6%, but that still suggests the tablet market is back to its downward trajectory, especially when its biggest players have also seen better days.

Apple is still at the top of the list, being the only one of five experiencing growth in the quarter (the other, oddly enough, was Lenovo). iPads, especially iPad Pros, have practically become the household name again when it comes to mobile slates. Despite that, IDC notes that its shipment of "slate-only" iPads reported all-time low sales.

Amazon's Fire tablets often report positive sales but, last year, it was only saved by the holiday shopping season. The company's usual strategy of selling dirt-cheap tablets as gateways to its services may no longer be enough to keep this class of Android-powered slates going.

It should be noted that IDC makes a distinction between slates and detachables on one hand and convertibles on another, the latter of which aren't factored into its "tablets" category. It might be a distinction that will make less sense as devices evolve and consumer habits change. It may, in the future, even skew IDC's numbers in favor of tablets.