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Members of the public use their mobile devices to take photographs of Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at a walk about in Brisbane, April 19, 2014.
Reuters/Phil Noble
Outnumbered.
FORM FACTOR

If you don’t have a tablet by now, you probably never will

By Jason Karaian

Tablets have struggled to live up to their initial hype, with sales stalling relative to smartphones—especially the super-sized smartphones known as “phablets.” According to new forecasts from ZenithOptimedia, a marketing agency, two-thirds of the population in 47 key markets will own a smartphone by 2018; tablet ownership will only cover a fifth of the same people by then. (The agency’s definition of tablet excludes e-readers.)

But these figures mask large regional variations. Roughly as many Brits and Canadians own tablets as smartphones, while smartphones are much more ubiquitous than tablets in places like Germany and Japan.

With sales falling, it’s clear that even enthusiastic tablet users aren’t refreshing their devices nearly as fast as people do for smartphones, and new converts to tablet ownership are rarer than people buying smartphones for the first time. It seems that for people in mature markets who haven’t bought a tablet yet, chances are they never will—even if the devices are now so cheap that they’re sold in six-packs.