The feverish sales of tablets here last year could be the last.
Tablet ownership here has maxed out, with analysts expecting the first yearly dip in sales to happen this year.
Market research firm IDC, which tracks the shipment of consumer devices here, said this year's shipment of tablets will plunge 34 per cent from the peak of 1.29 million units last year.
In the first half of the year, shipment already dipped 34 per cent to 440,000 units compared with the same period a year ago.
"The market has reached a saturation point," said Mr Kenneth Liew, senior research manager of client devices at IDC.
Studies from market research firm GfK Asia, which tracks retail sales here excluding business purchases, show a similar trend.
During the first half of the year, consumers picked up some 417,700 tablets, down about 10 per cent from the same period last year. It has not released its prediction for the full year.
"It is now quite common for households to own one or more tablets," said Mr Gerard Tan, account director for digital world at GfK Asia.
So unless existing owners upgrade their devices, tablet sales will not rise, he added.
Housewife Sakura Siow, 40, said she has no plans to ditch her two tablets.
They are used mainly by her two daughters, aged four and 11, to play games and watch movies.
"At their age, they don't need a more fanciful tablet," she said.
Tablets are also falling out of favour as more people are turning to smartphones with screen sizes of 51/2 inches to 7 inches.
They include the Samsung Galaxy Note II and III, Sony Xperia Z Ultra and LG Optimus G Pro.
In the first half of this year, 378,000 units of these bigger-screen models were shipped here, accounting for 21 per cent of the total smartphone market.
This is a whopping 80 per cent increase from the 210,000 units shipped in the same period last year.
Sales manager Faith Heng, 36, said she no longer uses her tablet for work as she now works on her Samsung Galaxy Note III while on the move.
"I can comfortably view spreadsheet files on my phone, and download all kinds of office automation apps," she said.
Consumers also tend to have to fork out more upfront for tablets, as their purchase is not subsidised by the telcos, unlike for smartphones. But tablet shipment "will not die out so soon", said IDC's Mr Liew.
IDC expects tablet shipment to inch up by 1.5 per cent to 864,114 units in 2015, and continue its "low single-digit" growth rate for the next three years.
Two-in-one devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro range are expected to prop up sales. These are tablet-laptop hybrid devices with detachable keyboards.
This article was published on Sept 1 in The Straits Times.
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