China white-box tablet shipments reached about 25 million units in the third quarter of 2013, up 56.3% sequentially and 40.4% on year thanks to strong overseas shipments, which accounted for 80% of the total volume. Among white-box tablet shipments, 7-inch models accounted for the largest share, while 8-inch models, which were originally expected to become new star products, were unable to do so because of high costs from the bezel design and limited supply of 8-inch panels.
Although white-box tablets are expected to see extraordinary growth in 2013, they are also expected to face more obstacles and challenges in the future. First, they will see strong price competition from large brand vendors, which will offer Android-based products at price levels similar to those of white-box models. Second, the tablet market will gradually reach saturation and should no longer see demand as strong as before.
Third, white-box tablet costs have already hit the bottom margin, causing related assembly service providers and component suppliers to see limited profits. Several unhealthy players were already been eliminated from the market at the end of the second quarter, while the remaining players will need to rely on pumping up their shipments to support their profitability. However, such a strategy is unlikely to sustain for long, Digitimes Research noted.
Digitimes Research also found that white-box tablets in Europe or North America are mostly used as gifts in product promotions or bundling deals and therefore specifications are not as high as those of regular tablets. As for emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America, most consumers are buying white-box tablets with a single-core processor, because of limited purchasing power.
As for application processors (APs), 70% of white-box tablets with phone functions adopted solutions from MediaTek in the third quarter, replacing the solutions from China-based Allwinner, the original favorite. Digitimes Research estimates that the proportion of white-box Wi-Fi-only tablets using MediaTek's solution will also increase dramatically starting the fourth quarter, further impacting China-based Allwinner and Rockchip's AP shipments. In addition to low prices, China-based AP suppliers will also need to consider how to create additional value for their APs to survive the competition.