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Analysts: Tablet shipments set to skyrocket as prices fall

PC shipments will continue their downward spiral through the new year as more and more consumers eye smaller tablets, according to data from Gartner.

Tablet shipments are expected to grow 53.4 per cent in 2013 to 184 million unit shipments, Gartner said, while PC shipments - including ultramobiles - decline 8.4 per cent.

"While consumers will be bombarded with ads for the new ultramobile devices, we expect their attention to be grabbed but not necessarily their money," Carolina Milanesi, Gartner research vice president, said in a statement.

Mobile phone shipments, meanwhile, will jump 3.7 per cent to 1.8 billion, but high-priced smartphones will not be flying off the shelves. "Growth is expected to come from mid-tier smartphones in mature markets and low-end Android smartphones in emerging markets," Gartner said.

Instead, smaller tablets will have their moment. Based on a recent Gartner study, the average screen sizes of the tablets used in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the US, and Japan range from 8.3in to 9.5in. Forty-seven per cent of the 21,500 participants, meanwhile, own a tablet that is 8in or smaller.

"We expect this Christmas to be all about smaller tablets as even the long-term holiday favourite — the smartphone — loses its appeal," Milanesi said.

"Although the preference is for dedicated devices, we see the opportunity for hybrid ultramobile to marry the functionality of a PC and the form factor of the tablet," Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal said in a statement.

"Users that have to balance work and play will find that the advantage of buying and carrying one device outweighs the compromise in the full experience that single devices can deliver," Atwal said. "Users who are not limited by their disposable income will likely have a basic tablet as a companion device to their ultramobile on which most of their consumption activities will take place."

That ability to multitask lends to the overall device outlook: According to Gartner, worldwide shipments of all devices — PC, tablets, mobile phones — are forecast to reach 2.32 billion this year, a 4.5 per cent increase over 2012.

Wearable gadgets, meanwhile, will continue to be a companion device for mobile phones, Gartner said. "In the short term, we expect consumers to look at wearables as nice to have rather than a 'must have,' leaving smartphones to play the role of our faithful companion throughout the day," Milanesi said.

Image: Flickr (garryknight)