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Online tablet user penetration numbers falling, says eMarketer

David Murphy

Tablet user penetration among internet users will fall for the first time by the end of the year, according to eMarketer’s worldwide tablet users forecast.

This year, 32.9 per cent of internet users across the globe will use a tablet, compared to 33.2 per cent in 2016. Tablet usage is expected to continue its decline, and the penetration rate among internet users will drop below 31 per cent by 2021.


eMarketer’s forecast shows that tablet use in developed markets, in particular, has stabilized, seeing little to no growth. Meanwhile, in emerging markets, the device is struggling to penetrate beyond early adopters.

The drop-off indicates that consumers in developing markets, such as China and India, are keen to use smartphones for most of their online needs. In addition, the demand for messaging services and social media apps such as WeChat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in these markets has further fuelled mobile internet usage.


“The stagnation in tablet usage is directly related to the growth in the popularity of smartphones,” said Cindy Liu, forecasting analyst at eMarketer. “Activities that made tablets popular in the first place—such as watching video, online shopping and buying, and playing games—are shifting to smartphones, which are now bigger and more powerful than they have ever been.”

eMarketer’s numbers are based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies. Data is weighted based on methodology and soundness.