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Bill Bennett

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2020 a good year for tablet sales

IDC reports tablet shipments were up almost 20 percent year on year in the last three months of 2020. Tablet makers shipped 52.2 million devices during the quarter, that’s the best performance in three years.

As with the resurgent PC market, the pandemic and a switch to working or learning from home fuelled the sales growth. This was noticeable when tablet sales first took off in the second quarter of 2020.

IDC says it doesn’t see this growth as sustainable; tablets face intense competition from above and below with laptops and phones. It also says that in some cases people purchased tablets instead of laptops because of product shortages.

This may be true, but tablets can be excellent devices for people who work from home. They are more flexible than laptops and offer bigger screens and more options than phone handsets. They glide between entertainment and work roles. It’s easier to sit and watch content on a tablet than on a laptop.

Five brands account for 80 percent of worldwide tablet sales. Apple is the market leader with a 36.5 percent share. Its sales climbed 19.5 percent in the last quarter of 2020. New iPad models helped, especially in the run up to Christmas. IDC points to large deployments of iPads in education.

Samsung is in second place selling about half as many units as Apple. Its year-on-year growth in the third quarter was an impressive 44.9 percent.

After Samsung it is Lenovo, Amazon and Huawei, in that order. Lenovo’s year-on-year sales climbed 120 percent in the quarter, the company has a little over 10 percent worldwide market share.

Amazon is a big deal in the US and sells in Europe. Huawei doesn’t sell much outside China. You don’t tend to see much of any of these three brands in New Zealand. Apple and Samsung continue to dominate here.

It makes perfect sense for consistency with other reports for IDC to focus on unit sales, but Apple and Samsung tablets cost more than most rivals. If IDC based its report on revenue, the two leaders would account for a much higher share of the total.

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