The tablet PC market surges 26% worldwide amid the pandemic

It's an excellent time to invest in a versatile tablet, as vendors ramp up production to meet demand and retailers boost sales by offering device and data incentives.


Image: bernardbodo/iStock

In recent years, the popularity of tablet PCs has waned, but in the second quarter, worldwide tablet shipments hit 37.5 million units, up 26% from the same quarter last year, according to Canalys. 

With the coronavirus-imposed work-from-home (WFH) culture, and 90% of the world's 694 million students shifting to virtual learning earlier this year, it makes sense that tablet vendors and carriers are experiencing a kind of renaissance. Canalys analysts released a report outlining the increasing world demand for tablets.

Consumers and businesses need and want affordable access to basic computing power. They're also looking for larger (than mobile) screens to facilitate the new normal's WFH policies. Vendors are ramping up production and retailers hope to further boost sales with offers of device and data incentives. 

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Despite Lenovo's position as fifth among the world's top five tablet vendors, it had the largest growth, with a 52.9% annual growth rate, shipping about 2.8 million devices. The four other competitors more than held their own, with Apple, which had the least annual growth at 19.8%, shipping over 14 million in the quarter, more than double than Samsung, which shipped about 7 million, but saw 39.2% annual growth. Huawei, with a yearly bump of 44.5%, shipped 4.7 million devices. Amazon jumped 37.1% in recorded annual growth, shipping more than 3 million tablets. 


Image: Canalys

The double-digit growth of the top five tablet vendors reflected shipment numbers usually associated with a Q4 holiday season, Canalys found.

Apple maintained its No. 1 status as market leader with its iPad shipments growing 20%; the company's shipping numbers (more than 14 million units) represented a second-quarter record. While Huawei may not have the same name recognition or popularity in the US, it had a strong performance in Western Europe.

"Tablets enjoyed a renaissance in Q2 2020 because the devices tick so many boxes for remote work and education use," said Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt in a press release. "The ability to collaborate virtually as well as view and interact with digital content has become paramount, especially in the education space."

"The coronavirus pandemic has increased competition for communal screen access between household members forced to stay indoors," Dutt continued. "Tablets help overcome this problem by allowing each family member to have their own device. And they are more budget-friendly than desktops and notebooks. For users with greater productivity needs, the proliferation of detachable tablets has been a boon. These devices have gained traction as primary devices for work and it is vital to include them when evaluating the PC market as a whole. Apple and Lenovo's recent success shows that having a tablet offering as a mainstream PC vendor is invaluable."


Image: Canalys

Each of the top five vendors increased the total PC (including tablet) shipments from Q2 2019 numbers. The top five shipments in both Q2 2019 and Q2 2020: Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Amazon, and Lenovo, grew 14% from Q2 2019 figures, with 110.5 million shipments for Q2 2020. In this category, Lenovo held the No. 1 position, as it shipped 20.2 million desktops, notebooks and tables. Apple was No. 2 in this category, with 18% growth, year-on-year, and 19.6 million shipments.

Dutt's colleague, Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton, also in a press release, added: "The channel and carrier ecosystem around tablets has also played a significant role in this stellar Q2 performance. Vendors and retailers in mature markets have offered massive discounts as part of their back-to-school promotions."

Stanton said: "They have also ramped up their capacity to manage online sales and delivery in the face of lockdown measures. Carriers have also taken important steps beyond just providing devices. For example, in the United States, AT&T offered 60 days of unlimited wireless data service for education-issued tablets to qualifying schools nationwide. In many mobile-first markets in Asia Pacific, where 4G connectivity is often cheaper and more reliable than broadband, having a wide range of connected tablet options has been vital to ensure remote education is possible."

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