The tablet market “continued its spiralling decline” in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to IDC, with sentiment growing stale despite vendors moving towards detachable devices.

Ryan Reith, VP with the research firm, said: “Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions and, as a result, we see the decline happening globally. We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don’t equate to large revenues.”

Total Q4 volume was 52.9 million units, a decrease of 20.1 per cent year-on-year. For the full year, shipments of 174.8 million represented a drop of 15.6 per cent, and marked the second consecutive year of declines.

IDC said vendors which have traditionally lead in the laptop market are looking to expand to offer more detachable tablets, “although currently there is more talk than action”. As a result, Apple and Microsoft are dominating this segment – but even these companies suffered in Q4 as their products showed signs of age.

The research firm also noted it believes the second half of 2017 will bring “a wide range of new detachable devices from the notebook PC OEMs as well as those playing primarily in the smartphone space”.

In terms of vendors, IDC said Apple’s leadership is “yet to be challenged”, although the company saw its shipments slide. Apple’s volume is also dominated by its traditional “slate” tablets (iPad Air and iPad Mini), with the higher-spec iPad Pro making up a small portion of the total.

IDC tablets