Smartphones look to build on encouraging 2015, but tablets still struggling

Smartphones look to build on encouraging 2015, but tablets still struggling

The last 12 months have certainly been eventful for the mobile working landscape, although certain areas of the market have recorded very different results.

Data released by leading market researcher IDC found that smartphones enjoyed a particularly strong year.

Preliminary data released earlier this month found that shipments for smartphone devices may have reached 1.43 billion last year – an increase of 10.1 per cent on numbers recorded for the previous year.

The numbers come in stark contrast to the Apple's warning that it had recorded the slowest level of growth for iPhones since 2007, even going so far as to say the model was experiencing its first ever slump in the March quarter.

Samsung, Apple's key competitor in the market, has echoed those concerns, reporting that its mobile division has recorded a three per cent fall in sales, although it also reported a profit rise of 13 per cent.

However, the figures have not stopped the South Korean giant from predicting softening demand and intensified competition, which it says is likely to leave it with  single-digit percentage growth in 2016.

Samsung remained top of the smartphone market due to an impressive fourth quarter, which saw it ship 85.6 million units – an increase of 14 per cent compared to last year.

The Korean giant is expected to finish off the financial year by reaching 324.8 million shipments, an increase of only 2.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, strong demand in the US and China is expected to help Apple finish the year with 231.5 million phones shipped, an increase of 20.2 per cent over the previous year.

Yet despite the encouraging figures, there are some experts predicting that 2016 may still be a difficult year for the smartphone market, with market research firm Gartner predicting that shipments may only see a 2.6 per cent rise, causing a fall in revenues.  

It adds that the rise of Chinese brands, which have produced cheaper models that perform the same functionalities, is likely to be a key factor in intensifying the competition within the market.

Tablets looking to bounce back

If the challenge for the smartphone market is to maintain strength, then the challenge for tablet devices is to bounce back from what has been a continued downward spiral in recent years.

Sales and market share both saw falls once again in 2015, with market analysts Strategy Analytics claiming in a recent report that shipments of tablets fell by 11 per cent in the fourth quarter of the year to reach a total of 69.9 million units.

Overall shipments for 2015 fell by eight per cent, reaching a total of 224.3 million.

Peter King, Research Director at Tablet & Touchscreen Strategies service, said companies such as Apple were aware of the struggles in the market, leading them to place a bigger emphasis on other areas of the mobile market.

“Apple suffered big setbacks this year as a lack of innovation during the last several years caught up to iPad sales.

“Instead, Apple has focused on its MacBooks, iPhone 6/6+, and Apple Watch releases. The launch of the iPad Pro failed to meet expectations during the quarter. While we see real long-term potential for iPad Pro in the enterprise and verticals, there was not enough demand to move the needle in Q4.”

It means this is likely to be a defining year for tablet devices. Whether they continue to hold a status as being relevant part of the market remains to be seen.