Research insights
Global tablet shipments to fall 31% in 1Q21, says Digitimes Research
Summer Kuo, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei

Worldwide tablet shipments climbed to a 13-quarter high of 51.56 million units in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to Digitimes Research. However, shipments will fall 31% sequentially in the first quarter of 2021.

Worldwide tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2020 increased 17.6% sequentially and 19.3% on year thanks to seasonal factors and rising demand from stay-at-home activities amid the coronavirus outbreak, Digitimes Research's figures show.

Tablet brands also accelerated their shipment paces in the fourth quarter of 2020 amid concerns of worsening shortages of IT chips in the first half of 2021. Apple's release of the inexpensive 10.2-inch iPad also significantly boosted overall tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2020.

As the tablet market enters the traditional slow season in the first quarter of 2021, with component shortages showing no sign of easing, global tablet shipments in the quarter will slip more than 30% sequentially.

Huawei's tablet shipments slipped sharply in the fourth quarter of 2020 as a result of insufficient CPU inventory. Lenovo, Amazon and TCL all surpassed Huawei to become the third to fifth largest brand worldwide. Huawei's shipments will decline further in the first quarter of 2021.

Consumers' demand has continued to lean toward larger-size models with the shipment share of 11-inch and above brand tablets already reaching over 10% in the fourth quarter of 2020 and will rise to near 15% in the first quarter of 2021.

Worldwide tablet shipments totaled 159.76 million units for whole-year 2020, up slightly by 2% on year thanks primarily to the pandemic-induced demand. However, Digitimes Research believes global tablet shipments will suffer an on-year decline in 2021 due mainly to the component shortages in the first half of the year.

Currently, lead time for new orders for tablet chips that are in shortage is around 20 weeks and the short supply is unlikely to ease until the end of second-quarter 2021. Since tablet brands at the moment have all adopted the strategy of delivering shipments whenever they obtain components, Digitimes Research believes traditional seasonal patterns may not apply to global tablet shipments in 2021.

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