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Why tablet sales may not see an upswing

Tablet sales are on the decline, according to recent research, and there may be no recovery in sight as consumers turn to other device options.

For the first time, quarterly tablet shipments have fallen year-over-year, according to a recent report by NPD DisplaySearch. According to NPD, that's partly because consumers are opting for larger-screen smartphones (also known as phablets) with screen sizes of 5.5 inches or larger.

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"There's this confluence of bad tidings in the industry ... You have more younger people using smartphones because they're comfortable with the smaller screen. I think you have older people like myself who are comfortable with the larger screen of a laptop, and then I think you have this category of phablets, which is kind of a hybrid, which is kind of eating away at the tablet market," said Jon Swartz, USA Today's San Francisco bureau chief.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S
Getty Images
Samsung Galaxy Tab S

And cost-conscious consumers will likely be replacing their gadgets less often than before.

"We all have smartphones, we all have laptops, we all have tablets. But we can't keep buying new ones every year," Swartz said.

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But Apple may not have as much to worry about compared with companies selling tablets running on the Android operating system, Swartz notes.

He expects Apple to see sales surge later this year, after a new iPad as well as the iPhone 6 and iWatch are expected to launch, he said.

—By CNBC's Althea Chang