In brief: A lot of industries had a terrible 2023. PCs, smartphones, components and more suffered huge declines, as did tablets, which saw shipments fall to their lowest annual volume since 2011. And unlike other products, tablets didn't have a positive fourth quarter, either, experiencing the largest decline since 2016.

Preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) has tablet shipments for the whole of 2023 totaling 128.5 million. That represents a year-on-year decline of 20.5% and the lowest shipments figure for 13 years.

It wasn't just tablets that had a rough 2023. The previous 12 months were the worst ever experienced by the PC industry, while smartphone shipments also crashed. However, both these markets improved during the fourth quarter. The same can't be said for tablets, unfortunately, which saw shipments fall 17.4% YoY to 36.8 million units in Q4.

IDC points to the usual suspects for the fall in tablet shipments: economic challenges and consumers spending their money on essentials, though project delays and spending freezes also led to purchases being postponed.

Every top tablet manufacturer's shipments declined last year. Amazon was hit hardest, down 65.9% YoY, while Apple stayed on top despite seeing the second-largest decline (19.8%).

While the market as a whole continued to suffer in Q4, it was a good quarter for Chinese tablet makers. Huawei, Lenovo, and Xiaomi all experienced double-digit shipment increases. Apple, in contrast, saw its shipments fall 29.3%, yet it still retained the top spot. Second place Samsung was down 6.6% with a near 20% market share. It's also worth remembering that Apple did not release a single new iPad in 2023, something it hasn't done since 2010.

The other big analyst firm, Canalys, painted an equally grim picture of the tablet market last year. It says that shipments totaled 135.3 million, down 10% YoY. That marks the largest yearly decline since 2016. Meanwhile, fourth-quarter shipments were down 11%, but it would have been a lot worse were it not for the impressive performance of the Chinese Vendors.

Both analysts believe there will be opportunities for the tablet market to rebound this year, though Canalys warns that vendors need to catch up with PCs and smartphones when it comes to on-device AI integration.

Apple is reportedly set to launch its first iPad Pro with an OLED display and several larger-screen models this year. It'll be interesting to see if they give the tablet market the boost it needs.