Apple and Huawei help slow tablet decline with lower-cost offerings

The tablet market continues to struggle, declining 3.4% in sales compared to this point last year. However, some familiar players have been able to stymie this downward trend by turning focus to lower-cost, higher-value products.

Apple and Huawei each stand out as success stories in this market, which many companies have abandoned since its initial boom a few years back. 

May saw the release of the new iPad, Apple’s latest take on its flagship model. Like the iPad Air 2, this new 9.7-inch tablet doesn’t skimp on features. Complete with most, if not all, of the iPhone 7’s standout capabilities, Apple’s new iPad surprised many with its low price point at $329 (£339/AU$469) – around $130 cheaper than its predecessor. 

While a $499 price tag for a new model each year created a slowing in adoption for each subsequent model, this lower price removed the barrier for some.

As this release from market research firm IDC points out, Huawei has made inroads, too, by offering premium tablets that start at a lower price point, like the $299 (£299) Huawei MediaPad M3 8.0

Since Google has, for now, ceased to produce its own tablets, the floor has been open for other players to step forward, and not only has Huawei done that, it seems to have temporarily allayed consumer fatigue in this market.

The answer has always been clear

Tablets created somewhat of a problem unto themselves. Smartphones usually make major advancements in both design and technology year after year due to the wide (and evolving) range of use cases they cover, and so new models tend to attract previous buyers.

Tablets, meanwhile, evolve more slowly by comparison, seen more as an entertainment and productivity device.

This distinction in buying habits further widened with the rise in popularity of 2-in-1 computers, many of which detach into tablets of their own. Some shoppers who were holding out on buying a new tablet were sold instead on more expensive 2-in-1s.

The recent upswing in tablet sales that we’ve seen recently is due to something that had to happen eventually: prices had to get lower. 2-in-1s forced the hand of tablet makers to do something they didn’t want to do, but now, finally, they're beginning to respond.

It’s hard to say if what we’re seeing is the start of a new, value-focused era in tablets. But given that both Apple and Huawei have seen improvements in the struggling sector, expect others to give it another try.

Cameron Faulkner

Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.