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Global Tablet Market Achieves Another Winning Year in 2021

The global tablet market looks set to achieve another year of outstanding sales in 2021, according to a new industry report from Futuresource Consulting. The research firm expects total market shipments across consumer and enterprise verticals to reach 183 million units. Although that’s a slight weakening when compared with 2020, it represents a 4% increase on 2019.

“2020 was an exceptional year for tablet sales,” Futuresource Consulting. “This year, we’re talking about fractions of a percent below that high point. 2020 was a hard act follow, and it looks like the market will make a success of it.”

APAC is leading the growth, with China and India at the head of the pack. Conversely, Futuresource expects established Western markets to shrink back in 2021, due to market saturation and a rising preference for the notebook form factor.

Success Despite Challenging Market Conditions

“Despite the market buoyancy, tablet vendors haven’t had a smooth ride for this year,” says Mathivanan. “Component shortages and distribution issues presented major challenges, with issues becoming such a problem that Apple announced it would cut production of the iPad and divert chip inventory to iPhone production.

“Many other major vendors have managed production by relying on older chip inventory, yet we still expect Apple to continue its dominance of the category this year, accounting for more than one out of every three tablets sold. Samsung will close 2021 in second position, with Lenovo and Amazon taking third and fourth position respectively.”

Although the tablet market is in its maturity, two new players entered the market in 2021. Nokia’s continued reinvention saw it launch its first Android-based tablet, the T20, while major smartphone OEM, BBK Electronics, launched the Realme Pad through its Realme brand.

Consumer Study Shows Generational Differences in Tablet Uptake

Futuresource Consulting’s regular consumer research study, Living With Digital, shows that tablet ownership is most popular within the 26 to 45 age bracket, with 65.5% of respondents in that group owning a device. 16 to 25s was the second most likely ownership bracket, with ownership quickly dropped off in the 46+ age groups.

In contrast, iPad ownership is skewed towards lower age groups, with 38% of iPad owners aged under 35. Amazon Fire tabs are also popular in lower age groups, which Futuresource attributes to the low price point.

Consumer and B2B Markets are on Divergent Paths

“Pandemic-induced changes in consumer usage patterns also led to significant increases in content consumption through tablet devices in 2020,” says Mathivanan. “Whether learning, gaming or entertainment, the tablet played a crucial role. However, consumers are increasingly transitioning to their smartphones, which will result in falling shipments over our forecast period.

“In the B2B segment we’re seeing a different story unfold. Many educational institutions and government bodies have re-disbursed budgets to order tablet devices in 2021.

“Moving forward, we expect consumer demand to decline by 9% CAGR in shipments over the 2021 to 2025 period. In contrast, we expect the B2B segment to continue to gain share and grow shipments, achieving a CAGR 8.8% over the same period.”

For further information or to purchase Futuresource Consulting’s global tablet market and development report, please contact leon.morris@futuresource-hq.com

To find out more about the latest CE tech trends to watch out for in 2022, including analyst insights on January's CES announcements, download our brand new Tech Perspectives here.

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Saranraj Mathivanan

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