TrendForce: there’s good news and bad news regarding the iPad Pro

New data from TrendForce shows that worldwide tablet shipments in the first quarter of 2016 totaled 35.2 million units, translating to a 35% drop from the previous quarter and a 7.9% drop from a year ago. Despite what many press reports insinuate, slowing tablet sales are affecting also manufacturers, not just Apple. Plus, the research group’s report has good news and bad news about Apple’s iPad Pro.

TrendForce notebook analyst Anita Wang said branded tablet vendors’ shipment results were mediocre following their impressive fourth-quarter performances that were supported by the peak season demand. As large-size smartphones continue to erode the tablet market, the trend of tablets becoming even larger has become more apparent, she adds.

Apple was still the leading brand by shipments in the first quarter with 10.3 million units shipped, amounting to a 36% quarterly decline and an 18.8% year-on-year decrease.

TrendForce’s data shows the 7.x-inch tablets accounted for less than 40% of the total tablet shipments in the first quarter. This is a significant contraction from a year earlier when this size segment still held 51% of the shipment share. 

Conversely, tablets sized 11.x inches and above have increased their percentage in the total shipments to 10% in the first quarter from 1.5% a year ago. Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 are the main contributors to the shipment growth of large-size tablets. That’s the good news for Apple.

However, Wang noted that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro was released in March, so the bulk of its shipments will fall into the second quarter and drive the growth of the overall iPad shipments against market headwinds. The sales of the 12.9-inch iPad, on the other hand, have started to decelerate after two quarters since its release. Weakening sales of this product may constrain the growth of Apple’s tablet shipments in this second quarter, says Wang. That’s the bad news.

Samsung kept its position as the No. 2 brand in the first-quarter shipment ranking. The South Korean vendor shipped 6.5 million units, down 30% from the prior quarter and down 26.5% year on year. Amazon’s first-quarter tablet shipments stood at 2.2 million units, representing a huge 47% decline compared with the prior three-month period but year-on-year growth of 337%. 

Lenovo’s first-quarter tablet shipments fell 26% compared with the previous quarter to 2.2 million units. Huawei shipped 2 million units in the first quarter, a 10% drop compared with the previous period. 

Microsoft held on to the sixth place in the first-quarter ranking owing to the brisk sales of Surface Pro 4. However, Microsoft will not be able to maintain its sales momentum this year if its next-generation Surface Pro 5 is released much later in the first quarter of 2017. TrendForce anticipates Microsoft to yield its ranking spot to ASUS and drop down to seventh place in the second quarter.