Who killed the tablet?

“Tablets are dead”, I read on TechCrunch earlier this year, headlining an article about the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

I had to think about that headline, and the significance for e-commerce professionals, upon encountering an interesting infographic about devices used for buying online.

It was striking to see that in some of the most technologically advanced countries, with Korea and Japan leading the pack, consumers now use their smartphone as often as the desktop PC for their online purchases. But maybe even more spectacular: in these same advanced countries the share of Tablets for online shopping had shrunk to the low single digits.

Research on “Tablets are dead” statement

That alone justifies a lookback at that bold TechCrunch headline: “Tablets are dead”. The article explains that in those four packed days in Barcelona, where the world’s leading tech companies showcase their latest innovations, there was little to no news about tablets. Hence that conclusion: any technology that’s not being invested in anymore, can be considered a dead end.

The statements about tablet are backed by the sales numbers: for four consecutive quarters, the shipments of Tablets have shrunk. At Apple, this downward trend already lasts twice as long: for two years in a row (since 2014).

Bigger, smaller or thinner iPads, new colours or minimal improvements in screen resolution, consumers apparently just can’t be bothered to buy the latest iPad. And why should they: that old thing still functions, doesn’t it? Well, yeah, kind of…. it’s still good enough for what families do with it, primarily YouTube, Games and reading the news.

Anyone looking to do a more complicated task, like in-depth product search, e-mail, online banking, or selecting a hotel or flight for their holiday, generally prefers to use the newest and therefore fastest device in the house; the smartphone.

Indeed, in most households, the smartphone are of a more recent manufacturing date than the tablet. The replacement cycle of smartphones is about half as long as the cycle for Tablets. Reasons?

Firstly, a large proportion of consumers ‘get’ a brand new smartphone from their employer or from their mobile provider every two or three years.

Secondly, the smartphone is intensively used by the consumer who literally carries it on his body all day; it’s become enormously relevant in the consumers’ daily lives. Thus, when consumers have to set budgetary priorities, they prioritize a new iPhone over a new iPad.

Video: Ecommerce vs. m-commerce: who will be dead in 2022? 

Murder of the tablet mystery solved

Murder mystery solved: smartphone is the killer. Is this the end of the ‘Whodunnit’, or will there be an epilogue? Of course there is, because we haven’t yet discussed the relevance of all of this for you as an e-Commerce professional.

With all the new technologies & developments that are coming at you at a murdering pace, and a constant pressure on your development team, I hear a lot of e-Commerce professionals struggle to set priorities for their roadmap.

Well, it must be good news for you to hear that at least, you can deprioritize one project: Tablets are fast underway to becoming completely irrelevant for e-Commerce, barring specific exceptions. For your roadmap, I suggest that you remove the “iPad App” from your “need to have” and even the “nice to have” list, and that you move it to the bottom part of the priority list, alongside Windows Mobile and Blackberry.

This article was published in Dutch in Twinkle Magazine.

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