To be fair, if you looked hard enough, you could find an Android tablet or two hidden in a corner of the Fira Gran Via. And Apple, the tablet leader, doesn’t come to MWC. But it’s safe to say that tablets are not the future for the Samsungs and LGs of the consumer electronics world.
In fact, Samsung, Sony, HTC and LG didn’t have any new tablet to announce. They didn’t even mention tablets during their conferences. It’s not just that people don’t care about tablets anymore — the big electronics companies themselves aren’t even trying to release new products for this market anymore.
Sure, Lenovo released some cheap Android tablets, but it seems like nobody noticed. Huawei announced the MateBook, but this isn’t technically a tablet — it’s a Surface Pro-like device running Windows 10 for laptops.
And yet, it wasn’t always like that. Remember how people were excited about the Nexus 7?
I’d have a hard time naming the most recent flagship Android tablets from some of the biggest tablet makers. After a bit of Internet searching, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, the LG G Pad II and the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet are real things and were all released last year.
Could I tell you which one is the best? Not a chance.
There are a few reasons why tablets have become so unpopular. First, tablets are now a commodity. You can find dozens of perfectly fine tablets for less than $200. And there’s no differentiating factor between Android tablets. As a result, companies are not making a profit on them.
Second, chances are you already have a tablet at home and it’s working fine. There’s no reason why you should upgrade it — it probably runs Netflix, Facebook and the Kindle app. It has a browser and your emails. Long replacement cycles mean you don’t need to pay attention to the new and shiny tablets.
Third, phones are getting bigger. The LG G5 (5.3-inch display) and Samsung Galaxy S7 (5.1-inch display) are the two most interesting flagship phones that were announced at Mobile World Congress. The first Samsung Galaxy Note had a 5.3-inch display. At the time, we called it a phablet. Today, it would be an average phone. Big phones are the new normal, and everybody uses their phones constantly to interact with other people and do everything they’d do on a tablet.
I find myself using my phone more even though my iPad is within arm’s reach. It’s just easier to deal with one device instead of two. I read more on my iPhone than on any other device. I’ve also written posts on my phone because I’m so used to the small keyboard.
So it’s time to face the truth. Tablets had a good run, but won’t be around for much longer. The iPad is still selling well, but Apple is trying hard to differentiate the iPad from the iPhone, creating the next generation of laptops.
Arguably, the iPad is a better tablet than any of the Android tablet I mentioned in this post. The Pixel C is a good-looking tablet, but there aren’t many tablet-optimized apps on the Play Store. This is key to understanding the iPad’s appeal.
Tablets can still make a comeback. They need to become good laptop replacements, or a digital canvas for artists, or something else. But something needs to change and soon. Current tablets prove that you should never bet against the smartphone.