In recent months, you might have read a number of articles proclaiming the death of the tablet. While smartphones continue on their march to global dominance, recent statistics have indicated that tablet sales are plateauing.
But these plateauing sales are far from an indication that a demand the tablet as we know it no longer exists. In fact, tablets are far from a dying tech species. Instead, they’re evolving and could be poised to soon take an even larger role in our personal and business lives than we already know.
Short-Term Worries With Long-Term Turnarounds
The recent months have seen the manufacturers and mobile device brands worried. Tablet shipments across the world have plateaued and even declined, indicating that the excitement over a new iPad is not nearly as pronounced as it was just a few years ago. These sales numbers, in turn, have been the basis for the much-publicized calls for a dying market.
But in reality, the situation is not nearly as dire as it seems. A number of indicators point to the fact that the tablet market is still far from dead. Instead, we may just be seeing a natural drop in the sales cycle due to longer device life spans.
Think of it this way: when the first iPad was introduced in 2010, consumers engaged in a mad rush for tablets that lasted for a few years. But tablets have a significantly longer life than your average mobile device; in fact, today’s iPad may have stronger processing power and weigh less than its first generation, but drastic changes have not taken place nearly to the same degree as other electronics segments.
For now, the market seems saturated. Even if you purchased your tablet a few years ago, it probably still works just fine, and you don’t need to replace it. That’s why tablet sales have plateaued.
But won’t always stay that way. At some point, the device you have become so used to will stop working, or a new iteration will come around that promises significant change from your current options. When that happens, the market will rise again. And in fact, business experts are already predicting a long-term turnaround with increasing sales for the tablet market starting in 2018.
The Need for Innovation
To spur that growth, of course, we need to see new products that do more than simply drop the price or slightly increase storage. It’s becoming more difficult to create a new product in this market that truly changes the status quo, but that device might be needed to drag the tablet market back up into prominence.
Early indicators that we’re about to see this new product are actually pretty positive. The Consumer Electronics Show, for example, called the Beyond Tablet its most innovative product in 2017. It’s a smart tablet without a display screen, breaking with the norms of the market to offer an educational platform, family engagement tool, and much more.
Some of the innovation in this market is less obvious, but still pronounced. Walk into an electronics store today, and you will see an increasing number of so-called 2 in 1 laptops, which feature a screen that’s detachable from the keyboard. Take a closer look, and you will recognize that for many of them, the screen is actually a separate tablet.
Microsoft’s Surface is perhaps the most prominent version of this innovation. Though devices like this are being marketed as laptops with detachable screens, they are actually more accurately considered tablets with detachable keyboards.
And here’s the kicker: despite lackluster tablet sales numbers across brands, Surface revenue continues to see steady and sometimes sharp increases. That’s because it solves a problem many tablets are struggling with to-date: combining the mobile convenience of a tablet with the power of a more traditional laptop.
Understanding Current Conveniences
What’s the business use case for a tablet? Sure you can easily run some productivity apps and take notes. But with limited processing power and a keyboard not available, use cases tend to be limited.
You would not, for example, buy your front-desk assistant a tablet in lieu of a computer, because the tasks required in that position will need frequent and heavy typing skills.
But at the same time, don’t underestimate the convenience of a tablet in other situations, even in the same position. A number of check-in apps, for example, allow visitors to make their presence known and get on your schedule to alleviate the work of any front-desk receptionist.
The mobility of a tablet is another crucial case for its continued sustainability in both business and personal uses. If you can easily carry it to meetings, you can use it to take notes, pull up reports and documents, and much more. And if you can connect it to a larger screen, you can even use it as your basis for navigating through an important presentation.
Meanwhile, the personal benefits are just as pronounced. Increasingly, we’re experiencing a cord cutting phenomenon in which fewer people subscribe to cable while shifting toward digital streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Put simply, no device is as well-prepared for this trend than a tablet, thanks to the perfect compromise between mobility, access, and screen size.
Finally, the internet of things is beginning to take hold in households across the world. Everyday items, from refrigerators to thermostats, are increasingly connected to the web. But to be effective, they should be controlled with a singular entity that’s easily accessible to everyone in the household.
Smartphones are a solution, but present problems in that they’re often restricted to their individual owner. A tablet, however, can become the perfect tool for everyone in the family to regulate the temperature, pull up the next movie to watch, and much more.
The Future of the Tablet
Combine the current and well-established conveniences of tablets with the near limitless future possibilities, and it becomes increasingly difficult to make a convincing argument that the tablet market is dying. If anything, we might be experiencing a calm before the storm: a lull in the market that prepares us for the next phase of the tablet boom.
What will that boom look like? We don’t yet know. We do know, however, that both consumers and business needs for devices that combine convenience with functionality won’t soon change. Because the market always reacts to consumer preference, it’s not a stretch to say that the future of mobile devices lies at least as much in tablets as it does in smartphones.
When will we get there? It’s impossible to tell. Estimates like the above predict a jump starting in 2018, which seems realistic. But in reality, that bump could occur at any point. It makes sense to prepare yourself by integrating a tablet into your life or business, making sure that you know of its benefits before the next wave of devices hits.
Don’t believe the claims that the tablet is dead or dying. To borrow Mark Twain’s phrase, the reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated. In fact, it makes sense to embrace the technology now, before an almost inevitable reversal in trends that just might see it once again reach the zenit of consumer and business devices. When that time comes, will you be prepared?