After few years of strong growth in the tablet segment, sales have steadily declined, while smartphone sales are up. International Data Corporation (IDC) in March reported that worldwide tablet growth saw a slump, and it even predicted single digit growth in the year ahead.
Apple, which for all practical purposes kick-started the tablet segment with the iPad in 2010, is not immune to the decrease in demand for tablets either. IDC recently said that the sales of iPad have suffered from buyers preferring iPhones (especially after the introduction of the large-screen iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) or Macs, adding it expects iPad sales to continue to shrink.
Some other market research reports have pointed out that the steep drop in tablet sales were due to extended lifetime of these devices as they were shared amongst family members, and also due to the factor that tablets received frequent updates (at least in the case of the iPad), minimising the need of a replacement.
Laptops have also seen transition from being huge clunky blocks of devices ones that are sleek. The 2-in-1s can be also credited to take some load off the tablets, as devices such as the Lenovo Yoga series give consumers advantages of a laptop with additional modes that allow it to be used as a tablet. One of the reasons for slow adoption of 2-in-1 devices has been claimed to be consumers' uncertainty around the Windows 8 platform.
For me personally, tablets fall short of my expectations from a laptop, and they don't have any of the advantages of a smartphone. No amount of marketing gimmicks or new features in tablets have yet made me buy one, and here's why.
1. Tablets aren't portable enough
After so many years, the two devices that I like to move around are my smartphone and a laptop - one easily fits in the pocket and another one in the bag. While one makes everything handy, the other has the added advantage of a full-fledged keyboard for fast typing. A tablet sits between my smartphone and laptop and it can't replace any one of them - which leads into my second point.
2. Tablets don't do anything you can't already do with your smartphone
Tablets feel like giant-sized version of smartphones. There is no function I can only do with a tablet, and not on a smartphone. The large screen might be marginally better for surfing the Internet, or reading an ebook, or even watching a movie, but it doesn't really justify the extra bulk of a tablet. I have to carry my phone, and I can already browse the Web, read, and even watch movies on it. So why get another device to do the same thing? An ebook reader, with its e-ink screen, still makes more sense than a tablet if you really want to keep a third device.
3. Lack of tablet apps
One of the biggest reasons I won't buy a tablet is the apps - or the lack of them. Like most smartphone users in India, I'm on the Android ecosystem and there aren't too many apps on the platform that are optimised for tablets. The best tablet apps are available on iOS, for the iPad, but I wouldn't consider switching ecosystems just for a tablet.
On Android though, most tablet apps are just resized or up-scaled interfaces of phone apps. In many cases, the user experience is actually better on the smaller phone screen the apps were designed for, than on the larger tablet. This is one point which doesn't apply to iPhone and iPad users, but the rest still holds true.
4. Storage is limited
While a tablet is a lot less portable than a phone, it's also a less versatile device than a laptop. But even if you're thinking of it as a pure consumption device, the limited storage space on tablets is a bit of a problem. Tablets on the market can often have as little as 8GB of storage (16GB in case of the iPad, though available space is lesser) , and Apple's tablets don't even support microSD cards. You'll be hard pressed to buy a laptop with less than 250GB of storage, and will be able to install all the software you need, such as the Office Suite, or Adobe Photoshop, or games, and still have space left over for your media. With tablets, on the other hand, you'll be constantly juggling files thanks to the limited storage. Cloud storage options and USB OTG definitely aren't enough, with the former not very usable in India with the lack of widespread connectivity, and the latter inconvenient.
5. Lack of connectivity ports
Another reason why tablets can't replace laptops for me are the limited connectivity options available. Much like smartphones, tablets are designed to be sleek and visually appealing. This cuts down the chances of inclusion of majority of ports. A regular tablet these days include a Micro-USB port for charging alongside a 3.5mm audio jack - same as a smartphone. Lack of other ports seen in laptops like a full-sized USB, VGA/ HDMI makes it almost impossible to connect a tablet to a TV or even something like a printer, which you really need from your "primary computer."