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Are bigger smartphones killing off the tablet?

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There’s a growing trend for bigger and bigger smartphones — even Apple is getting in on the act — and it looks like these larger handsets are having a significant impact on tablet sales, which have been dwindling for some time. According to the latest figures released by industry analysts IDC, global tablet sales have dipped seven percent year-on-year and four percent over the last three months.

Apple’s iconic iPad is feeling the pinch as well: Sales of both the larger and the smaller iPads have dropped by 26 percent since 2013. In the most recent quarter, Apple shifted 10.9 million slates, with Samsung in second place on 7.6 million tablet sales. Lenovo rounds out the top three, selling 2.5 million tablets in the second quarter of 2015.

There’s not just one reason for the gradual decline, even if larger smartphones have to shoulder some of the blame. Tablets aren’t upgraded as often as smartphones, they’re often passed on to other family members or friends, and increasingly svelte laptops (such as the new MacBook) are also taking potential sales away.

“Longer life cycles, increased competition from other categories such as larger smartphones, combined with the fact that end users can install the latest operating systems on their older tablets has stifled the initial enthusiasm for these devices in the consumer market,” IDC’s Jitesh Ubrani said in a statement.

Ubrani said a comeback could be on the cards, if manufacturers can keep on coming up with innovations like the Split View in iOS 9 and the two-in-one hybrid devices that have recently become common.

For seasoned industry watchers the writing has been on the wall for some time, with global tablet sales starting to drop for the first time in February this year. It seems that whatever function tablets took up for a while, larger smartphones and thinner laptops are now doing the job just as well — we’ll have to wait and see if the rumored iPad Pro can help reverse the decline.

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