Analysis

Smartphones still growing but tablets face ‘challenging’ year ahead


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Every three months, the financial results of the various smartphone and tablet manufacturers lead to a flurry of announcements from research firms crunching the latest shipment figures, to see which manufacturers and platforms are on top. How did the first quarter of 2014 go? IDC has published its estimates for both the smartphone and tablet markets.

Global smartphone shipments were up 28.6% year-on-year to 281.5m units, ahead of forecasts. They accounted for 62.7% of all mobile phone shipments during the quarter, although that stat is perhaps cause to remember that this means 37.3% of all phones shipped last quarter WEREN’T smartphones.

Even so, IDC put a positive spin on the stats: “Sustained strong demand, driven by emerging markets, low-cost devices, and the proliferation of 4G networks,” as the company put it. 40% of those 281.5m smartphones shipped in China, while Samsung remained the biggest supplier worldwide with 85m units and a 30.2% market share – nearly double second-placed Apple’s 43.7m units and 15.5% share.

Tablets? The outlook is a little less sunny there. IDC reckons that 50.4m tablets shipped in the first quarter of this year, up just 3.9% year-on-year. It predicted a “challenging year ahead” for the category.

“The rise of large-screen phones and consumers who are holding on to their existing tablets for ever longer periods of time were both contributing factors to a weaker-than-anticipated quarter,” explained IDC’s Tom Mainelli. A 16.1% drop in iPad shipments was part of the problem, although Android now accounts for around two thirds of all tablets shipped.

These figures are interesting, but on one level, the shifting market share between iOS and Android – whether for smartphones or tablets – isn’t such a big deal for music companies. Most streaming services are available on both, after all.

It’s the general growth of smartphones in particular that’s driving so much of the digital music market now, as well as related fields like social networking – note that mobile accounts for 59% of Facebook’s ad revenues and 80% of Twitter’s. With IDC predicting 1.2bn smartphone shipments for 2014 as a whole, this platform is only increasing.

Stuart Dredge

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