Although it wasn’t the first tablet, the original Apple iPad, released in 2010, was the first to spark the notion that tablets were the perfect bridge between smaller smartphones and large, clunky laptops. A tablet revolution quickly ensued with companies like Google, Samsung, LG, Amazon, Microsoft – really, any electronics manufacturer – contributing to the cause. 7 years on, however, tablet sales have slowed down drastically for almost everybody.
It’s not hard to conclude why tablets have had such a short-lived growth period, the most obvious reason being that people simply don’t update their tablets as often as they do their smartphones. Tablets also tend to be a “from time-to-time” device rather than a “daily driver” for people. Less use means less wear and tear and one fewer reason to spend money on a new one.
In more recent years, however, I believe smartphone trends play an even bigger role in slowing down tablet growth, namely that most smartphones are no longer the tiny handhelds that they were 7 years ago; many smartphones are now considered what we once called “phablets”. Nowadays, big smartphones are just the status quo. I don't think anybody even calls them phablets anymore, but I do because I'm stubborn. Finding a smartphone with a screen smaller than 5 inches is a rarity, and looks to become an even rarer occurrence with the new trend of slimming down bezels to make way for larger screens (which fortunately doesn’t increase physical size, so it’s a good thing).
Between smartphones being as powerful as they are – even in the lower end models – and their large screens, there often isn’t a need for tablets anymore. Although completely anecdotal, most people I know who own tablets only use it for casual usage like web browsing, emails, and media consumption (mostly video watching). And although smartphone screens tend to hover around the 5 to 5.8-inch range, these screens are much easier to watch videos on than the old 3.5-inch iPhones of yore. Additionally, they’re even more convenient to pocket and carry around than tablets.
The few exceptions are those who use their tablets for more demanding purposes that may require a tablet’s larger display, such as business-related tasks, photo or video editing, and drawing or digital painting, which are all things that higher end tablets can typically handle quite efficiently. The other two exceptions I can think of are younger children, who are not yet ready for smartphones, and older adults, who don’t care for smartphones to handle simpler tasks like phone calls. Otherwise, most of the people I know are quite content with their older tablets to handle the basics year after year. One of my friends still happily uses an iPad 2 on the rare occasion that she even uses it. I myself only recently sold my iPad Air because I simply didn’t have a need for it anymore as my Surface Book doubles as a tablet, which, incidentally, I hardly ever use.
I used to be a big fan of tablets. I thought they were a great in-between gadget for when I needed something bigger than my phone’s 3.5-inch screen but smaller and lighter than my hefty laptops. Even though my phone is not much bigger now with its 4-inch display, I find that any tablet I impulsively buy for myself ends up collecting dust in a drawer somewhere. Instead of being a good on-the-go gadget, I find them rather useless. I think that comes down to personal preference because I’ve grown tired of clutter in my life and I’m perfectly content using a smartphone when it’s convenient and a laptop when it’s not, but many people I know hardly use their tablets anymore simply because their phone is both large and powerful enough to do the trick.
I do wonder if this is the beginning of the end of tablets. They did a good job bridging that gap between gadgets when they initially came onto the scene, but for the general consumer it would seem that their usefulness is not as useful as it used to be.
Readers, what are your thoughts on tablets nowadays? Do you still use a tablet regularly, or does yours sit around collecting dust? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!