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Tablet Accessories Hit $1.35 Billion In 2012

NEW YORK — Sales of tablet accessories leaped to a whopping $1.35 billion in 2012, up from $900 million in 2011, according to The NPD Group.

The reason for the spike, Stephen Baker, NPD industry analysis VP, told TWICE, was predictably due to the sharp rise in number of first-time tablet owners. Most of the accessories purchased were for new tablets, rather than by consumers who were looking to refresh existing products.

Protective cases and covers commanded a large piece of the pie, with 60 percent to 70 percent of the sales, Baker said, and this segment does not include such secondary-function cases as those with keyboards or backup power.

Although NPD does not break out its numbers to differentiate device-specific accessories, when asked if he has seen more companies getting in the non-Apple side of the game, Baker said, “The challenge has been that for accessories, it’s just too easy to sell for iPads. That’s the vast majority of the volume, so it’s easy to deliver that kind of product. There was lot of fragmentation in the non-iPad market place.”

“It’s not just the iPad and the Galaxy,” Baker added, “but [also] the Nexus or the different sizes of Kindles. You’re going to see companies develop more products for many of the different flavors, just as you see in the smartphone market.”

Baker called in-car tablet accessories “an evolving opportunity,” and said this segment was likely hampered by consumers being unwilling to purchase an accompanying cellular or other type of subscription plan for using the tablet in the car. Consumers seemed satisfied with the ability to simply preload content in advance for in-car viewing.

“I’m not sure hanging straps and things for a tablet are a big high-growth, high-opportunity area that’s not taking advantage of all the benefits people expect from the tablet market … I think that’s going to hold back the car market,” he said.

What will likely show growth, Baker said, are appspecific accessories (sometimes called “appcessories”) as well as accompaniments for smaller-sized tablets — those with screens measuring smaller than 8 inches.

Device-agnostic accessories could also gain traction, with consumers desiring the ability to use an accessory on more than one device. “As products become more hardware and software integrated, some of that distinction of being a tablet accessory or being a smartphone accessory will go away,” Baker said. “In those specific appcessories, more and more you’ll see those kinds of products be dual-capable because the software will support it on a variety of form factors.”

For some of the most recent additions to the tablet accessories market, see the sidebar at right.