Even Apple’s monster quarterly financials had their bum note: falling sales of iPad tablets. Yet it turns out that this may simply be reflecting the overall market. Two research firms claimed yesterday that global tablet shipments declined year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2014 – the first such decline since 2010. 

IDC claims shipments dropped by 3.2% to 76.1m units, while Canalys suggests a more drastic 12% decline to 67m units. Why the drop? Longer upgrade cycles than smartphones – people hang on to their tablets for longer – and competition from the growing number of large-screened “phablet” smartphones, mainly. If, for many people, a tablet’s main purpose would be relatively simple tasks like email, social networking, games and video, a five or six-inch smartphone may reduce the desire to buy a separate gadget. But IDC also pinpoints something amiss with Amazon: its tablet shipments fell from 5.8m in Q4 2013 to 1.7m in Q4 2014. That’s a 4.1m drop in unit terms, when the overall market only fell by 2.5m units.

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