How We Test Tablets

Amidst slower demand, IDC has lowered its tablet forecast for 2014, blaming declining laptop prices, increased interest in wearables and smartphones, and existing tablet owners keeping their devices for longer than usual.

IDC now expects global tablet sales to hit 233.1 million units in 2014, down from the 245.4 million it projected in May and an initial 260.9 estimate earlier this year.

"When we look at the global picture, it would be easy to say that the tablet market is slowing down," Jean Philippe Bouchard, IDC research director for tablets, said in a statement.

But it's not all bad. "When we start digging into the regional dynamics, we realize that there is still a good appetite for this product category," Bouchard said. "While mature markets like North America and Western Europe will combine for flat unit growth in 2014, the remaining regional markets will generate 12 percent unit growth over the same period."

IDC is projecting that tablet and 2-in-1 growth in North America and Western Europe will be up 4 percent by 2018. Tablets sold in the rest of the world, however, will drop from 12 percent to just around 5 percent.

If this sounds like a familiar story, it's because it is: the same kind of an interplay between mature and emerging markets exists in the smartphone space, as well. As IDC noted in Thursday data, mature markets are expected to enjoy a year-to-year growth rate of just under 5 percent for 2014. Emerging markets, by the very nature of their name, are expected to grow just shy of 32.5 percent year to year.

"The smartphone market, which has experienced runaway growth over the last several years, is starting to slow. Mature markets have slowed considerably but still deliver strong revenues with average selling prices (ASPs) over US$400. Meanwhile, many emerging markets are still barreling along, but with ASPs of less than US$250," said Ramon Llamas, IDC Research Manager.

"The key for vendors now is to maintain a presence in the higher-margin mature markets, while establishing a sustainable presence within the fast-growing emerging markets," he said. "To enable this strategy, operating system companies are partnering with OEMs to provide low-cost handsets."

By 2018, IDC projects year-to-year smartphone growth to drop to 8.3 percent for emerging markets and 2.7 percent for mature markets.