Jefferson Graham runs down the best-selling tech items of 2015–and some of the notable misses too, on #TalkingTech.
LOS ANGELES — Apple has seen two years of sales declines for the iPad tablet, but the tablet category itself just had a surprise, record year, according to one researcher.
Sales quintupled to an expected 1 billion units worldwide this year, from 216 million units in 2014, according to projections from the Envisioneering Group.
While that number is far higher than the 200-plus million units globally projected by research firms IDC, Gartner and Forrester, analyst Richard Doherty says the rival estimates miss all the cheap Asian knockoff tablets that have been churning off the assembly lines.
“Have you done a search for 7-inch Android tablet on eBay lately,?” he asks.
Manufacturers with names like Xgody, Yuntab, iRulu and Pyle offer these cheap tablets in the $35-$40 range. That’s a lot cheaper than Apple’s entry-level iPad Mini 2, with a 7.9 inch screen and $269 price tag.
However, this year e-tailer Amazon turned a lot of heads by drastically lowering the price of tablets here, offering the 7-inch Fire for $49.99. In its roster of holiday best-sellers, Amazon said this Fire was its best selling tablet in December.
For consumers, buying a new tablet was “an impulse purchase,” says Doherty. If your kid sits on the tablet and breaks it, you wouldn’t dream of getting it fixed–they’re so cheap, you just buy a new one.”
The top tech purchase of the year continued to be smartphones, with an expected 1.5 billion sold worldwide, according to projections from researcher IDC. Last year saw some 1.2 billion sold.
TVs also had a great year, according to Doherty, who expects sales of 400 million sets for 2015, up from 247 million in 2014.
He attributes the rise in unit sales to the lower cost of “smart TV,” technology that brought Internet entertainment directly to the remote control of TV sets, without having to plug in a set-top box like Roku or Apple TV.
Consumers have yet to fully embrace the newest TV format, 4K or Ultra High-Definition, which promises four times the resolution of standard HD, he says.
The 4K TVs did come down dramatically in price in 2014. Sales were initially in the multiple thousands of dollars, and this year Vizio launched a 4K set for $600. Still, 4K sales were “below the over-optimistic expectations of the industry,” in 2015 says Doherty.
Computers didn’t fare as well, despite the introduction of Microsoft’s latest software upgrade, Windows 10, and the expected, but not realized bump it would provide for consumers looking to skip the upgrade and just get a new computer instead.
Some 281 million PCs were expected to be sold, according to IDC, down from 308 million in 2014. Folks tend to be happy with the older computers and keep them for longer, as more of our daily computing activities have moved to the smartphone.
Meanwhile, in fifth place were the streaming boxes from Roku, Apple TV and Amazon, which will see sales “north” of 100 million units, Doherty says.
While Windows 10 got good reviews from tech critics, only 11% of the 1 billion-plus Windows user base opted to do the upgrade, suggesting that Microsoft has a ways to go before the software gets “hit” status. Apple’s new operating system operating system El Capitan has been downloaded by 25% of Apple’s user base.
Other notable misses include the Nabi Fuhu tablet, which had initially sold well, but fell on hard times, and the company recently was sold in a fire sale to Mattel. Other misses: the Samsung Galaxy S6 line of phones, which the company said didn’t sell as well as expected, and anything from Toshiba, which recently laid off 7,000 employees.
Follow USA TODAY tech columnist and #TalkingTech host Jefferson Graham on Twitter, where he’s @jeffersongraham.
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