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Tablet and Smartphone sales slump in Q4, but see overall yearly growth

By Mitchell Hageman
Tue 1 Feb 2022

Tablets and Smartphone sales saw a decline in Q4 of the last financial year, however they also saw an overall yearly increase.

According to a new report by IDC, total tablet shipments were up 3.2% year over year and reached 168.8 million units, which was the market's highest level since 2016. Surprisingly, Chromebook shipments declined 63.6% year over year, leading to a dramatic decline in Q4.

The smartphone market grew 5.7% in 2021, with 1.35 billion smartphones shipped, but only 362.4 million were shipped in Q4 leading to a 3.2% year over year decrease.

Apple came out victorious in both categories for Q4, with 17.5 million tablets shipped and 84.9 million smartphones distributed to consumers. Samsung, however, took the overall yearly top spot with 272 million smartphones, pipping Apple at the post with a difference of 36.3 million.

HP proved to be the most popular provider of Chromebooks, with 10.2  million shipments and a 27.7% market share. Samsung slumped in tablet sales, with only 3.2 million shipments and an 8.8% market share.

For the full year, all five vendors included in the smartphone data grew shipments year over year, with four out of five achieving double-digit growth. The data also illustrates which vendors benefitted the most from the massive decline of Huawei this year, with polarising numbers for the company in comparison to 2020.

iPhone 13 SKUs were a significant portion of volumes in the holiday quarter for Apple, driving strong growth in overall iPhone average selling prices.

IDC group vice president Ryan Reith says that for smartphones, supply chain woes and delayed releases may be to blame for drops in Q4, among other pandemic related issues.

"There's no question the second half of 2021 failed to meet expectations with volumes declining 4.5% compared to the second half of 2020," he says.

"We expect to see supply and logistical challenges continue through the first half of this year, but we currently believe we'll return to growth in the second quarter and second half of 2022. There is no question that demand is still strong in many markets, and to some extent we are seeing increasing consumer interest in 5G and new form factors like foldables."

On the tablet front, IDC senior research analyst Anuroopa Nataraj says that the rise in online learning and hybrid work environments has led to a general overall uptake, and the Q4 fold may be due to a move past peak demand.

"Though 2021 was a great year for the tablet market, shipments have begun to decelerate as the market has moved past peak demand across many geographies. However, shipments in the near future will remain above pre-pandemic levels as virtual learning, remote work, and media consumption remain priorities for users."

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