Fewer people buying tablets in Singapore as large-screen smartphones catch on

MRT commuters using their mobile devices. Fewer people are buying tablet mobile devices these days as they turn to bigger-screen smartphones for their communication and entertainment needs. -- ST FILE PHOTO: TED CHEN 
MRT commuters using their mobile devices. Fewer people are buying tablet mobile devices these days as they turn to bigger-screen smartphones for their communication and entertainment needs. -- ST FILE PHOTO: TED CHEN 

25 per cent drop in shipments as bigger-screen smartphones catch on

FEWER people are buying tablet mobile devices these days as they turn to bigger-screen smartphones for their communication and entertainment needs.

The number of tablets shipped to Singapore fell 25 per cent to 255,000 units in the first quarter of this year from the same period last year, according to preliminary figures from market research firm IDC Asia Pacific.

This drop was sharper than the shipment decline in the fourth quarter of last year - when the tablet market dipped for the first time year on year.

During the last three months of 2013, 270,500 tablets were shipped, a 5 per cent decrease from the same period the year before.

"The market is hitting a ceiling... (as) with other mature markets around the world," said Mr Avinash K. Sundaram, senior market analyst at IDC Asia Pacific.

The popularity of large-screen smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note II and III, Sony Xperia Z Ultra and LG Optimus G Pro, has also hit tablet sales.

"Many people who may have bought a tablet have instead chosen a larger-screen phone," said Mr Sundaram.

Six times as many smartphones with screen sizes of 51/2 inches to seven inches were shipped to Singapore last year compared with 2012.

Last year, 646,000 units of these bigger-screen models were shipped here, accounting for 19 per cent of the total smartphone market. Smaller-screen smartphones such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy are still popular, but bigger-screen ones are eating into their sales.

In the past, consumers tended to carry two devices - the smartphone for chatting, and the tablet for watching movies and viewing documents and spreadsheet files.

"But now, with larger-screen phones on sale, consumers would rather carry a single device to chat and watch their Korean dramas, for instance," said Mr Sundaram.

Consumers said it was convenient to have just one device.

Sales manager Faith Heng, 36, said: "I can now comfortably view spreadsheet files on my Note II while on the move without having to lug a computer or a tablet along."

Realtor Eelaine Ng, 40, said she is looking to buy a 51/2-inch smartphone.

"The tablet is very heavy. It is also harder to take pictures with the tablet than with a smartphone," she said.

Consumers also tend to have to fork out more upfront for tablets, as their purchase is not subsidised by the telcos, unlike for smartphones.

IDC had earlier forecast that the tablet market would grow 18 per cent this year from last year, but is revising the number to a "high single digit".

Tablet shipments have so far peaked at 1.29 million units for the whole of last year, up from 1.09 million units in 2012.

With consumers using tablets less often to watch videos, sales of these gadgets would have to rely instead on the use of productivity apps such as Microsoft Office and Google Office Suite.

itham@sph.com.sg

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