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Tablet shipments fall for first time ever

Tablet shipments fell at the end of last year for the first time since the market's inception in 2010, according to a new report, with Amazon devices plummeting nearly 70 percent.

Global shipments for tablets fell to 76.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, dropping 3.2 percent from the same period the previous year, according to tech market research firm IDC. It is the first year-on-year decline since the market's inception in 2010.



iPad Air 2.
Getty Images
iPad Air 2.

Shipments for the full year of 2014, however, rose 4.4 percent, totalling 229.6 million units.

Apple's fourth-quarter iPad shipments fell 17.8 percent year-on-year to 21.4 million, while Samsung saw an 18.4 percent decline to 11 million over the same period.

But the biggest loser was Amazon, which clocked a 69.9 percent decline in shipments of its Kindle Fire range, falling from 5.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2013 to just 1.7 million in the same period last year.

"Although Apple expanded its iPad lineup by keeping around older models and offering a lower entry price point of $249, it still wasn't enough to spur iPad sales given the excitement around the launch of the new iPhones," Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst, Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, said.

"Meanwhile, Samsung's struggles continued as low-cost vendors are quickly proving that mid- to high-priced Android tablets simply aren't cut out for today's tablet market."

Bigger phones

Apple's release of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 in October did little to offset the decline in shipments, amid growing popularity of its larger-screen iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

In general, an increasing number of smartphone vendors are releasing devices with bigger screens – known as phablets – removing the incentive to buy tablets.

"Tablets are slowing because phablets are accelerating," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, told CNBC by phone.

"As 5-inch and 6-inch phablets grow in popularity from Apple and others…demand for tablets, particularly smaller ones like the iPad mini is fading."

Lenovo bucks trend

Chinese electronics maker Lenovo was the only company to buck the trend in IDC's report, with tablet shipments rising 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter, year-on-year, to 3.7 million.

"The vendor covers most screen sizes on both Android and Windows, allowing Lenovo to capture benefits of end users' shift towards larger screen sizes and productivity in general," IDC's report said.

In the fourth quarter of 2014, Apple's share of the tablet market stood at 28.1 percent, Samsung's at 14.5 percent, with Lenovo in third with 4.8 percent.

The tablet data contrasts with smartphone shipments, which saw a 28 percent year-on-year surge in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to IDC.

- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal