One of the biggest trends this holiday season is one that’s been happening for a while. Younger consumers are moving away from tablets and back into the warm, comforting arms of the smartphone. As smartphone screens have gotten larger, consumers have become much more comfortable using them in scenarios once considered ideal for tablets.
Since the iPhone was introduced a decade ago, user habits have changed significantly. The smartphone has become an inseparable companion for people all over the world. Apple sought to reproduce its success with the iPad three years later, and it was a hit.
Over time, though, the appeal of tablets has faded. Besides extra screen real estate, which some can do without, tablets don’t offer a significantly different experience than smartphones. People often have access to a laptop or desktop on which they can accomplish the few things they can’t on a phone.
Tablet sales have been falling for years now.In the third quarter, tablet shipments declined again by 2.3 million units to 44.6 million, according to data from Strategy Analytics.
On the less scientific side, CNET surveyed 1,825 readers and found that fewer people wanted tablets (32 percent) than smartphones (35 percent) this holiday season. This is the first time smartphones beat tablets in the survey since 2013.
Is the tablet dead? Hardly. Apple is still seeing success with an 11 percent increase in iPad shipments to 10.3 million units in the third quarter.
Still, the trends do suggest where startups should put the most emphasis. The tablet has always played second fiddle to the smartphone, but now the tablet is becoming a more specialized device.
Instead, users are largely looking to use 6-inch displays on their smartphones as hardware designers have been able to shrink phone bezels to almost nothing. In Asia, where large-screen smartphones first took off, users prefer screen sizes from 5.6 inches to 6 inches, according to ScientiaMobile. This range is now finally popular in North America, but users there still prefer screens in the 4.6-inch to 5-inch range by a slight margin. European users have sought a middle ground with almost half of users preferring screens between 5.1 inches and 5.5 inches.
Now that smartphones have gotten large enough, users seem happy to leave the tablet behind. Tablets might be perceived as too cumbersome. It’s another device that needs to be charged.
Users value simpler interactions with technology. This is why audio and artificial intelligence is another important trend this holiday season. Headphones are a popular gift this year, according to CNET. Many headphones, like Google’s new Pixel Buds, are designed to be used with AI and digital assistants.
The rise of digital assistants and voice control is something that the big tech companies have been pushing for a few years. Amazon and Google are especially pushing hard to get their AI speakers into homes. Google has a new $50 Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot is down to $30.
Nothing can compare to the ubiquitous device that everyone always has available, though. While there are already fierce debates about what comes after the smartphone, users are doubling down on it and shedding the extra tablet weight.
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