Android tablets have never been considered the best options on the market, but according to the International Data Corporation, they're not the only ones performing worse than they did in years past. Across the board, tablets aren't leaving store shelves the way they used to.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, otherwise known as holiday season, IDC asserts that 65.9 million units shipped worldwide. This was a 13.7% drop compared to the same period in 2014. 206.8 million devices sold in the entire year, down 10.1% from 230.1 million the year before.

The top five players in the fourth quarter were Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Lenovo, and Huawei, in that order. Despite being in first, Apple sold 24.8% fewer iPads in Q4. Samsung, by comparison, saw a drop of 18.1%. Amazon's story stands in stark contrast to them both. The online retailer sold 175.7% more tablets this holiday season than the one before. This has everything to do with the latest Fire costing only $50. Huawei too had an impressive showing with a 124.6% rise.

AmazonFireTablet

Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, Asus, and Huawei were the top sellers for the year as a whole. Apple still saw a 21.8% decline, and Samsung followed with 16.1%. Asus was the biggest loser with a 39.9% drop. Lenovo managed to increase sales by 0.4%, while Huawei jumped up a significantly larger 116.6%. Apple sold 49.6 million tablets compared to Samsung's 33.4 million. Huawei doubled its numbers from 3 million in 2014 to 6.5 million in 2015.

On the positive side, detachable tablets had a relatively strong showing. Apple sold over two million iPad Pros, and more people bought a Surface Pro than a Surface 3 from Microsoft. While Lenovo, Huawei, and Amazon fight for the low-end of what appears to be a shrinking market, Apple and Microsoft are finding that consumers are willing to pay more for tablets that could potentially replace their laptops. It's not clear if IDC counts the Pixel C in this category, but the device unsurprisingly didn't sell enough units to get more than an indirect mention.

"This quarter was unique as we had new detachables in the market from all three of the major platform players. Despite lukewarm reviews, the iPad Pro was the clear winner this season as it was the top selling detachable, surpassing notable entries from Microsoft and other PC vendors. It's also important to note that the transition towards detachable tablets has presented positive opportunities for both Apple and Microsoft. However, Google's recent foray into this space has been rather lackluster as the Android platform will require a lot more refinement to achieve any measurable success."

—Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers

You can read more of the analysis, complete with graphs, in the press release below.

Press Release

Worldwide Shipments of Slate Tablets Continue to Decline While Detachable Tablets Climb to New High, According to IDC

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Despite the holiday season, the worldwide tablet market declined yet again in the fourth quarter of 2015 (4Q15) with 65.9 million units shipped, down -13.7% year over year, according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. Total shipments for 2015 were 206.8 million, down -10.1% from 230.1 million in the prior year. Despite the market's negative trajectory overall, shipments for detachable tablets reached an all-time high of 8.1 million devices.

Worldwide tablet shipments totaled 65.9 million units in 4Q15, down -13.7% year over year, according to IDC.

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The transition towards detachable devices appears to be in full swing as pure slate tablets experienced their greatest annual decline to date of -21.1%. On the other hand, detachable tablets more than doubled their shipments since the fourth quarter of last year.

"This quarter was unique as we had new detachables in the market from all three of the major platform players," said Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. "Despite lukewarm reviews, the iPad Pro was the clear winner this season as it was the top selling detachable, surpassing notable entries from Microsoft and other PC vendors. It's also important to note that the transition towards detachable tablets has presented positive opportunities for both Apple and Microsoft. However, Google's recent foray into this space has been rather lackluster as the Android platform will require a lot more refinement to achieve any measurable success."

Perhaps the most interesting trend to note is that prices on slate tablets have not yet hit rock bottom. Amazon’s $50 (or $42 for bulk shoppers) tablet was the holiday season's surprise hit, garnering the number 3 rank among the worldwide top 5. Rival vendors like Huawei and Lenovo also continued to focus on the low end while also expanding outside their home country China.

"One of the biggest reasons why detachables are growing so fast is because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director, Tablets at IDC. "We believe Apple sold just over two million iPad Pros while Microsoft sold around 1.6 million Surface devices, a majority of which were Surface Pro and not the more affordable Surface 3. With these results, it's clear that price is not the most important feature considered when acquiring a detachable – performance is."

Tablet Vendor Highlights

Apple's reign as market leader continued in 4Q15 though the company faced a -24.8% year-over-year decline. With the successful launch of the iPad Pro, the company was able to curb the decline in iPad revenues as its model mix shifted towards higher priced iPads.

Samsung managed to keep its second position in the market though it did decline by -18.1% compared to last year. Samsung is the vendor with the deepest tablet portfolio and manages to reach multiple price points and screen sizes, a position that will facilitate the transition to detachables in 2016.

Amazon's latest Kindle iteration piqued everyone's interest with its low price point, allowing Amazon's annual growth to reach 175.7%, the highest amongst the top 5. Amazon's success in the tablet market has thus far been purely based on price. While this bodes well during the holiday season, it's unlikely the Kindle's success will continue in the remainder of the year.

Lenovo maintained its market share in the last quarter of 2015, shipping 3.2 million units for a -13.5% decline over the same period last year. However, the Yoga, MIIX, and Thinkpad brands' combined traditional PC savoir faire should help Lenovo regain market share in 2016.

Huawei's focus remains on cellular-connected tablets and international expansion. The company has positioned itself well in the adjacent smartphone market and its popularity is likely to bleed over into the tablet market.

Top Five Tablet Vendors, Shipments, Market Share, and Growth, Fourth Quarter 2015
(Preliminary Results, Shipments in millions)

Vendor

4Q15 Unit
Shipments

4Q15 Market
Share

4Q14 Unit
Shipments

4Q14 Market
Share

Year-Over-
Year Growth

1. Apple 16.1 24.5% 21.4 28.1% -24.8%
2. Samsung 9.0 13.7% 11.0 14.4% -18.1%
3. Amazon.com 5.2 7.9% 1.9 2.5% 175.7%
4. Lenovo 3.2 4.8% 3.7 4.8% -13.5%
5. Huawei 2.2 3.4% 1.0 1.3% 124.6%
Others 30.2 45.8% 37.4 49.0% -19.2%
Total 65.9 100.0% 76.4 100.0% -13.7%

Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, February 1, 2016

Top Five Tablet Vendors, Shipments, Market Share, and Growth, 2015
(Preliminary Results, Shipments in millions)

Vendor

2015 Unit
Shipments

2015 Market
Share

2014 Unit
Shipments

2014 Market
Share

Year-Over-
Year Growth

1. Apple 49.6 24.0% 63.4 27.6% -21.8%
2. Samsung 33.4 16.2% 39.8 17.3% -16.1%
3. Lenovo 11.2 5.4% 11.2 4.9% 0.4%
4. ASUS 7.1 3.4% 11.8 5.1% -39.9%
5. Huawei 6.5 3.1% 3.0 1.3% 116.6%
Others 99.1 47.9% 100.9 43.8% -1.8%
Total 206.8 100.0% 230.1 100.0% -10.1%

Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, February 1, 2016

Notes:

  • Total tablet market includes slate tablets plus detachable tablets. References to "tablets" in this release include both slate tablets and detachable devices.

In addition to the table above, an interactive graphic showing worldwide unit shipment annual growth by product over the previous five quarters is available here. The chart is intended for public use in online news articles and social media. Instructions on how to embed this graphic can be found by viewing this press release on IDC.com.