Growth in the tablet market slowed down in the third quarter due to market saturation. Global market research firm TrendForce's latest tablet shipment report reveals shipments worldwide during this period totaled 39.3 million units, up slightly by 6.8% from the previous quarter. Vendors will be relying on new products or promotion deals to drive shipments in the final quarter, which is likely to account for much of the sales this year. Fourth-quarter shipment growth is thus expected to reach 25% over the prior quarter. Furthermore, TrendForce estimates the total shipments for 2015 to be around 163.4 million units, down 14.9% compared with the result of 2014. Within this year's annual shipments, 115.8 million units will come from branded vendors, representing a 19.8% decline from a year ago. Shipments of white-box tablets conversely are projected to grow 0.2% year on year and account for 47.6 million units of the annual shipments
Amazon to make a strong finish for the year with a new Fire tablet; Microsoft to maintain the momentum of the 2-in-1 market
TrendForce notebook analyst Anita Wang said Amazon will see a dramatic increase in its tablet shipments towards the end of the year. The vendor posted poor quarterly results during the first three quarters, with its third-quarter shipments in particular suffering a 25% drop. However, the new 7-inch Fire tablet that was released at the end of October has been shaking up the market with its very low price of US$49.99 and the "buy five and the sixth free" deal. TrendForce projects that over 3 million this new tablet will be shipped this year, and the vendor's fourth-quarter shipments is set to grow eight to nine times compared with the third quarter. TrendForce has also adjusted Amazon's annual shipments for this year to 4.8 million units, up 25% from the prior year.
In addition to the success of economical tablets, the 2-in-1 form factor has also gotten a big sales boost owing to Microsoft, which saw its third-quarter tablet shipments grew against the market headwinds by 13.4% over the previous quarter. Consumers have been especially attracted to Microsoft's affordable entry-level tablets. Shipments of Surface 3, for example, soared past that of Surface Pro 3 in the third quarter and currently comprises over 60% of the vendor's total shipments for this year. The brisk sales of Surface 3, along with the new 12.3-inch Surface Pro 4 that is set to launch in the middle of November, will help increase Microsoft tablet shipments by about 20% in the fourth quarter. TrendForce estimates that Microsoft will ship around 3.8 million tablets, representing a massive annual growth of 44%.
Shipments of iPads to expand significantly in the fourth quarter, while large tablets will not turn Samsung's shipments around
Apple's iPad shipments for third quarter were 9.9 million units, down 9.6% from the second quarter and down 19.8% year on year. The new products that were released in September - iPad mini 4 and the larger iPad Pro - will start driving Apple's tablet sales in the final quarter. Compared with the slow third quarter, the fourth quarter will have take-off shipment growth that is estimated to exceed 30%. However, iPad Pro is presently in short supply because the vendor has encountered problems that prevented smooth deliveries of the device. Therefore, the projected iPad Pro shipments in the fourth quarter will be less than 2 million units. Apple has also been unable to prevent large-size iPhones from cannibalizing iPad sales since the launch of iPhone 6 series. While shipments of iPad mini will peak this fourth quarter, the overall result for this product will be a year-on-year decline. TrendForce has lowered iPad shipments for 2015 to 46.5 million units, which is a 27% drop from a year ago.
Samsung's third-quarter shipments totaled just 7.6 million units, down 4% from the prior quarter. The quarterly shipment decline of tablets sized 9.7 inches and above was the main reason for the lackluster result. Conversely, shipments of tablets sized 8.4 inches and below were relatively stable during the same period. In the fourth quarter, Samsung will not only depend on its 9.7-inch products to drive shipments but will also be launching an 18.4-inch model known as Galaxy View. The vendor expects that this giant tablet, which is dedicated to home entertainment, will be able to differentiate itself from the competing products and add a new market segment. Still, the launch shipments of Galaxy View are projected at less than 100,000 units, which will not contribute much to Samsung's annual shipments. Set against the previous year, the vendor's tablet shipments for 2015 are projected to fall by as much as 20% to 32.8 million units.
Lenovo's third-quarter shipments totaled around 2.34 million, up 5 % from the previous quarter. Lenovo is facing stiff competition in China, which is its main tablet market. White-box vendors especially have been able eat into Lenovo's sales there by undercutting prices. TrendForce has also marked down Lenovo's annual shipments to 9.3 million units, amounting to a 12.9% decline compared with 2014.
In the third quarter, ASUS launched a new entrant in the ZenPad series that has high cost-performance ratio and features a tablet cover with a built-in battery pack. The success of the latest ZenPad helped lift the vendor's third-quarter tablet shipments by 29% compared with the previous quarter. Based on TrendForce's analysis, ASUS will ship 5.6 million tablets in 2015, though this figure also translates to an annual decline.