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Tablet Growth Hindered by Consumers’ Lack of Love

April 21st, 2016

A lot has been said on why tablet sales have stalled: longer replacement cycles, improvements through software, and larger phones coming to the market have all been blamed. Ultimately, I believe the biggest reason keeping this market from growing is consumers’ lack of love for tablets. Don’t get me wrong, people who have tablets use them and like them, especially iPads, but they have never really built the same relationship as they have with their smartphones.

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To be clear, I am not talking about user satisfaction with these devices. I am talking about a more visceral connection. Tablets came to the market when our codependent relationship with smartphones was well underway and, while they looked a lot alike, they never were able to take their place. This was mainly due to the fact that, while a larger screen was nice, it was not a must have and a lot of users were able to do what they needed to on a phone. More generous data plans, faster network speeds and larger screens continue to fuel our love for smartphones to the point there was not much left for something else, particularly when seen as delivering a very similar experience. To some extent, PCs have the advantage of being seen as a “must have” for productivity and they end up ranking higher than tablets in importance. Although, as I have previously discussed, that “must have” is closer to a security blanket than a real need which impacts replacement cycles.

The weak emotional link consumers have established with their tablet devices translated in a weak desire for always having the latest model. While nowhere near as severe as the apathy that afflicts the PC market, tablet users’ indifference to upgrading their devices is real. In the US, 47% of current tablet owners are perfectly happy with the device they have or think software updates will deliver what they need. Users are satisfied with their tablets.

As smartphone screens continue to grow in size and continue to be with users at all times, it is hard for tablets to muscle in and take a bigger share of a consumer’s time. This is why I believe Apple has been trying to make consumers think of tablets like the new computing platform. Apple is trying to show consumers the iPad can be their next computing device empowering them to let go of the security blanket that is the PC. The very object that, at the start of the market, Apple put effort in distancing from could now become the saving grace as consumers stop considering tablets the same as smartphones. Of course, Microsoft is doing exactly the same with 2-in-1s but most consumers are not interested. Which is why Apple brought the 9.7″ iPad Pro to market – a much wider appeal with a more mobile form-factor but packed with everything a user might need to balance work and play.

Carolina Milanesi

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