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Tablet users to surpass 1 billion worldwide in 2015, but growth slowing

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More than 1 billion people worldwide will use a tablet in 2015, according to new figures from eMarketer, representing nearly 15% of the global population and more than double the number of three years ago. By 2018, the number of tablet users in the world will reach 1.43 billion.

However, growth in the global tablet-using population will slow dramatically in 2015 and continue to taper off. The total number of tablet users is expected to increase by 17.1% this year, and while this figure is healthy, it pales in comparison with year-over-year gains of 54.1% in 2013 and 29.1% in 2014. By 2018, the growth rate for new users will be just 7.9%.

A key factor for this slowing growth is that the current number of users is skewed by an abundance of tablets in developed markets. As those markets mature, growth in emerging markets is not expected to pick up much slack.

Three trends influence eMareter’s conservative outlook:

• Tablets continue to be perceived as luxury items in terms of price.

• Tablets face increased competition for people’s time not only from smartphones but also a widening array of connected devices, including phablets, wearables, connected TVs and dedicated gaming devices, particularly in late-adopting countries like Japan and South Korea.

• The use case for tablets is not always clear, particularly in markets where smartphone and phablet usage is robust.

“The shared nature of tablets and increased competition from other connected devices reduce the likelihood that the tablet audience will match the size of the smartphone audience worldwide,” says Cathy Boyle, senior analyst at eMarketer. “The most limiting factor is the use case for a tablet: It is not as clear-cut or compelling as a communication tool, the core capability and use case for a smartphone.”

China will be the world leader in terms of tablet users in 2015, with more than 328 million consumers accessing these devices at least once per month — nearly one-third the world’s total. The US is a distant second, with fewer than half the number China has.

Here are four other key facts in each of the next four years in our forecast:

• 2015: Brazil will surpass the UK to become the fourth-largest market.

• 2016: Indonesia will enter the top five, reaching nearly 38 million tablet users.

• 2017: China will have more than 400 million tablet users.

• 2018: Nearly 20% of the world population will use tablets regularly.

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