The Triumph of Tablets
Tablets is a category in motion. Since their debut as a viable product four years ago with the Apple iPad, adoption rates have zoomed in broadband-equipped households (from zero in 2010 to nearly 50 percent through 2013, by Parks Associates estimates), and 2014 continues the trend, with consumers facing a choice of more and more operating systems, screen sizes and functionality with each month that passes.
And that’s great news for accessories sales. The universe of tablet accessories is growing right in tandem with hardware options, as buyers of the newest models look for ways to enhance and optimize their purchases.
For Chicagoland’s Abt Electronics, the business is all about selling premium, well-trusted brands. “You won’t walk in to Abt and see a $59 tablet,” Chad Taylor, product manager for computers, tablets and accessories, said. Screen-size sweet spots there are 7, 8 and 10 inches, and 8-inch has gained in popularity recently, because “it’s still small enough to hold in one hand comfortably.”
At Nashville-based Electronic Express, senior buyer Simon Sedek said he also sells many 7- and 10-inch tablets, and in the Windows 8 platform, noted brisk sales in 8- and 10-inch sizes.
“The market today is split into four quadrants: large screen, small screen, then premium and mainstream,” Soren Mills, chief marketing officer at Newegg North America, said. “The 7-inch market seems saturated, and the premium brands like Nexus are doing well when prices are below $200. There is an uptick on 8-inch premium models around $350.” He also observed that the 7-inch tablet size could eventually feel some pressure from larger-screen smartphones, helping to strengthen 8-inch tablets’ case at retail. “Also, the push on Windows 8.1 is centered primarily on the 8-inch screen size, making that a more desired alternative,” he said.
As for larger screens like the 12-inch Samsung NotePro 12.2, which are just coming to the fore, Newegg’s Mills observed, “it still remains to be seen if it can capture mass-market acceptance.”
Sedek, however, said the industry can probably expect more 12-inch model debuts, filling the market niche once held a few years ago by the netbook. “You’ll also see more and more manufacturers looking at 11-to-13-inch tablet sizes, and more crossover products coming out.”
Taylor noted that customers were “gobbling up” the Samsung 12-incher at Abt upon its introduction in February. “I think it will open up the accessories market and people will start to replace laptops with these,” stimulating sales of items like combination keyboard cases as add-ons.