Mobile Trends

iPad Shipments Plummet as Detachable Tablets Double

Shipments of Apple tablets, including iPad and iPad Pro, dropped nearly 25 percent in the last quarter of 2015, leading an overall decline in the tablet market. Meanwhile shipments of detachable tablets — devices that include removable keyboards — actually doubled in the same period.

Overall, the fourth quarter of 2015 saw a decline of 13.7 percent in tablet shipments, according to preliminary data released by market research firm IDC. That represented 65.9 million units in the three-month period ended Dec. 31. Pure slate tablets (like the iPad) fared worse than the category as a whole, down 21.1 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. Overall tablet shipments for the year came in at 206.8 million, off 10.1 percent compared with the previous year.

However, detachable tablets doubled in shipments to an all-time high of 8.1 million units.

"This quarter was unique as we had new detachables in the market from all three of the major platform players," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, in a prepared statement. "Despite lukewarm reviews, the iPad Pro was the clear winner this season as it was the top selling detachable, surpassing notable entries from Microsoft and other PC vendors. It's also important to note that the transition towards detachable tablets has presented positive opportunities for both Apple and Microsoft. However, Google's recent foray into this space has been rather lackluster as the Android platform will require a lot more refinement to achieve any measurable success."

Why the sudden popularity of detachables?

According to IDC: "One of the biggest reasons why detachables are growing so fast is because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director, Tablets at IDC. "We believe Apple sold just over two million iPad Pros while Microsoft sold around 1.6 million Surface devices, a majority of which were Surface Pro and not the more affordable Surface 3. With these results, it's clear that price is not the most important feature considered when acquiring a detachable — performance is."

Apple dropped to less than one-quarter of the overall tablet market in Q4 2015, falling to a market share of 24.5 percent from 28.1 percent the previous year. That was on shipments of 16.1 million units total.

No. 2 Samsung also saw a slight drop, from a 14.4 percent market share in Q4 2014 to 13.7 percent in Q4 2015. Samsung's Q4 2015 shipments were 9 million units.

Amazon came in third, with a 176 percent increase in unit shipments for the quarter. Amazon captured 7.9 percent of the market on shipments of 5.2 million units compared with a market share of 2.5 percent the previous year.

No. 4 Lenovo remained flat with a market share of 4.8 percent, though unit shipments declined to 3.2 million.

Rounding out the top 5, Huawei nearly tripled its market share, from 1.4 percent in Q4 2014 to 3.4 percent in Q4 2015 on shipments of 2.2 million units.


About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director, education for 1105 Media's Public Sector Media Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal. A 22-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

THE News Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.