Global tablet user base to hit 1bn this year

Even though there are signs that the market is not growing as fast as it once did the global user base will go through 1bn this year

There was a time before the arrival of the iPad when tablets seemed to be a form factor destined for use in health, police and education and the idea that they would be used by millions sounded like science fiction.

But this year a milestone could be reached with one billion people using a tablet, with a third of them living in China, as the technology gets closer to reaching saturation point.

There have been some signs that the demand for tablets is already slowing down with researcher eMarketer indicating that the 1bn user mark might be a high point before several years of slowdown kick in and the growth that has seen 15% of the world's population own a tablet reduces its velocity.

According to eMarketer the total number of tablet users is expected to increase by 17.1% this year, which is nothing near the 54.1% growth seen in 2013. By 2018, the growth rate for new tablet users worldwide will be just 7.9%.

Although the bulk of tablet owners are in China the UK ranks highly as the fourth largest global market with 29.6m being owned last year and forecasts that will increase to 32.2m in 2015  continuing to increase to a level of 38.4m by 2018.

“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,” said 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," she added.

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