Why fret about iPad numbers when there's no such thing as the Android tablet?

Why fret about iPad numbers when there's no such thing as the Android tablet?

Summary: As Apple's financial disclosure draws near, analysts are comparing iPad sales numbers with those of the Android tablet market. The problem with that is there is no such thing as the Android tablet.

(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

If you haven't seen it yet, you almost certainly will. Apple's big WWDC is approaching and, before that, its current financial disclosures. Analysts are already lamenting the "poor" iPad sales numbers. They especially like pointing out that Android tablet sales are happening at a faster clip than iPad sales. It's doom and gloom if you look around the web. The problem is, it doesn't make much sense to compare Android tablet sales to those of the iPads.

The reason for this is that the Android tablet doesn't exist. While the iPad line consists of two products, three or four at most if you lump older iPad models into the mix, the "Android tablet" is actually dozens of products from who knows how many companies.

The folks in Cupertino need to find a way to make the millions of existing iPad owners feel compelled to upgrade to the next big model coming down the road.

These tablets running some version of Android have nothing to do with one another, especially at a business level. That's not how some analysts look at it. They lump tablets from Samsung, Lenovo, and Google with all the cheap brands popular in China and other regions, to compare them to two iPads.

Samsung is unquestionably the biggest vendor of tablets running Android. Looking at the numbers from Gartner for 2013, Apple is still outselling Samsung almost two to one. That's even with a slight decline year-over-year by Apple, and after many millions of iPads sold. There is no doubt that iPads are the 800-pound gorilla in the tablet cage.

Lumping all tablets running Android together and comparing that to iPads leads to conclusions that don't really matter, like declaring that Apple needs to make drastic changes to the iPad to stem the rising tide of Android tablets. The poor iPad is doomed according to that view compared to the entire Android tablet segment.

Let's put this in perspective. If iPad is the gigantic whale in the Tablet Sea and tablets running Android are the many species of small fish occupying the same space, does it make sense to say the whale is doomed because there are too many little fish in the tank? Does the sheer number of different fish make the giant whale any less dominant in the water? No, of course it doesn't.

Should Apple make massive changes to the iPad to keep Android at bay? Not on your life; the iPad is still the biggest fish in the tank. That's why in most places you see iPads everywhere, and nary an Android tablet in sight. They may be out there but it sure depends on where you look. Not so with the iPads, which are literally everywhere.

That may be the biggest hurdle that Apple faces with the slowing of iPad sales. Many who are prospective tablet buyers already have an iPad. The folks in Cupertino need to find a way to make the millions of existing iPad owners feel compelled to upgrade to the next big model coming down the road. Ignore all the little fishes in the sea and instead improve its whale. Whales are graceful and everybody likes them, after all.

(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Don't get me wrong, Apple should keep an eye on the Android space. That's just good business. More importantly, it should definitely think about market saturation. Getting existing iPad owners to upgrade to the next model will go a long way to silence the analysts preaching the end of the world. Or, maybe not.

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPad, Tablets

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  • "there's no such thing as the Android tablet"

    "Samsung is unquestionably the biggest vendor of tablets running Android"
    I don't know what should I make out of this article
    • this author

      this author is just an iGuy dog in the manger, proved many times despite his very inferior iPad with:
      1) poor icons
      2) no right to install any bit-coin app (fascism by Apple)
      3) no right to change default browser (fascism by Apple)

      beautiful ads from Samsung shows how iToys users are limited like this ridiculous author, very funny ads:
      goo (dot) gl/U7xR3j
      goo (dot) gl/rvLKel
      Jiří Pavelec
      • Wrong

        Nope, I use them all as regular readers can attest. Don't have a favorite, unlike you apparently.
        • Me thinks he does protest too much.

          While your stament may be true, I find it very hard to believe after reading this "article".

          As some commenters touched on, You use android to identify a tablet, but android is an OS. attempting to do some kind of comparison between "Android" and "IPADS" does not make sense to me. IPAD is not an OS.

          Why did you choose not to do an apples to apples comparison? IOS tablets/devices to Android tablets/devices?

          We all know that Apple is the only company legally allowed to use IOS, so that limits the number of devices allowed to use IOS. Android is not restricted to only one company. It would be interesting if Apple started giving free use of IOS to other companies. Would IOS be even more popular than Android? Personally, I don't think so, since with IOS, you are still restricted to Apples ecosystem.

          I've mentioned it before, Apple's ecosystem appears to be modeled after the the 1800's coal mine stores; "Most of these new West Virginians soon became part of an economic system controlled by the coal industry. Miners worked in company mines with company tools and equipment, which they were required to lease. The rent for company housing and cost of items from the company store were deducted from their pay. The stores themselves charged over-inflated prices, since there was no alternative for purchasing goods. To ensure that miners spent their wages at the store, coal companies developed their own monetary system. Miners were paid by scrip, in the form of tokens, currency, or credit, which could be used only at the company store. Therefore, even when wages were increased, coal companies simply increased prices at the company store to balance what they lost in pay."

          Source: http://www.wvculture.org/history/minewars.html

          As I commented further below, I just don't get the point of this "Article"
          • Give the guy a break...

            I mean he uses an Ipad for crying out loud. He can't be taken seriously. I remember him writing smarter articles but it seems like ios is starting to take its toll on him. Just let nature finish him off.
          • Reading between the lines, I think James' points are pretty clear

            1) In the premium tablet space (i.e. the tablets that actually function pretty well), the iPads are still considerably ahead of Android tablets in terms of sales. I think some of James' opinion is shaped by not seeing many Android tablets "in the wild" (see the link above that says "nary an Android tablet in sight" to access that article, which I think was written last week).

            2) Apple SHOULD fret about the iPad's sales numbers, not because of Android tablets gaining market share, but because of possible saturation of iPad (and possibly premium tablet) sales.

            Incidentally, James DOES expouse many, many different tech devices - he's had articles positively discussing not only iPads but also Windows 8 tablets (especially the convertible Asus Transformer Book 100), various Android devices, including tablets, and chromebooks. Articles focused on those devices (and in some cases, articles critical of those devices' potential sales growth or broadening applicability) aren't that hard to find if you look.
          • I think you miss his point

            from what I took was just because Samsung sold 100 tablets, Lenovo sold 50 tablets and 30 other companies combined sold 1000 tablets for an Android total of 1100, to Apple's 1100 tablets doesn't mean that Apple is going to go under, or that they are suddenly in trouble

            Apple sold 1000 more tablets then Samsung. Who made more money?
            Apple sold 1050 more tablets then Lenovo. Who made more money?
            Apple singularly sold the same amount of tablets as 30 other companies combined.
            Who made more money, Apple, or one of the 30 mentioned companies?

            Does it really look like people are running from Apple to where Apple is in financial trouble of some soft, given they are easily outselling each of their competitors?
          • talk about not seeing the forest for the trees?

            All the other companies TOGETHER -> COMBINED TOGETHER!!!
          • There is only one iOS. There are many "flavors" of ...

            ... Android. Most of those piddly little Android vendors will be out of business in a year. In the mean time, Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Google, & Microsoft will be around indefinitely.
            M Wagner
        • No favourite

          I don't think there is such a thing as having no favourite.

          If you didn't have a favourite, you wouldn't feel the need to defend yourself like that, ending with "unlike you apparently".

          And it's fine having a favourite. Having a favourite doesn't necessarily preclude you from writing sensible and objective observation.

          Remember that all subjectivity is objective: The moment you include the subject in any observation of any object you make, the entire relationship is defined which means anyone can relate to what you write.

          It's when people claim objectivity while pretending that their own experience has nothing to do with it, that people start calling you out for being biased.

          Therefore, if you do have a favourite, but pretend that you don't, is when you get biased in your reporting.
          If you have a favourite, and are aware you have a favourite, is when you are no longer biased in your reporting.

          Meaning, you don't have to be "everything is equal to me" to do unbiased reporting. In fact, such a thing would be impossible, so any person who claims "everything is equal to me" must be in denial, and will therefore produce skewed reporting.

          More on the point to the article:

          Why don't you select a few relevant producers of Android tablets and compare those to the 2-4 iPad models? The article you wrote here is written in a negating style: you show what is not so.

          To be relevant you'd have to write something in a positive style: show what is so.

          And remember one thing: if Apple is a whale twice the volume of Samsung, it doesn't mean Apple is twice as big. A whale 1/2 the volume would still have 4/5 the length, height and width (4/5 *4/5 * 4/5 = 64 / 125 ~= 1/2).

          You would surely not discount whales that size.
      • You obviously haven't read JK's articles much

        There's been many a devoted paen to several tablet models of the non-Apple variety.
      • I see. So anyone who chooses differently then you

        is suddenly the enemy that can't be trusted?
        • pretty much

          As it is, there's no reason to trust someone who takes a stupid simple decision and chooses the worst of them. It's like saying, "hey look, I can go to college, but I'll just watch YouTube tutorials instead" it wouldn't make sense to hand a certificate over to him, or even a job for that matter.
    • silly article

      If it is a tablet and runs android apps, it's an android tablet. If it runs iOS apps it's an iPad. That's how normal people view things.
    • stupid article

      Clickbait garbage headline.
      Desperate article is shallow with no substance.
      JK is just out of stock.
  • partly, almost but not quite

    The analogy doesn't really work ... Its kinda like saying the PC doesn't exist because they're not all the same. Whales and small fish don't actually eat the same food but Android isn't just small fish its also a species of whale too. There's a partial point here but again this analogy misses the mark. Equally missing the mark is trying to compare iPad sales only to Samsung tablet sales.

    It would help to make categories in the tablet market and I think other markets (PC) may become similar. One categorization would split the market into two or three segments ... Premium, Standard, and LowEnd. Apple generally doesn't compete in the LowEnd market. You will see some entry level, older and referb Apple product in the Standard space. Apple's target market is Premium high margin market, that's what their business model is geared towards.

    There are certainly many tablets in the premium and standard market from recognized vendors and there's a plethora of tablets in the LowEnd market from every nook and cranny. IMO the LowEnd stuff is mostly crap designed to take advantage of unaware bargain hunters.

    The LowEnd stuff should not be included in the competition analysis.
    • The PC comparison is not that good either

      PC vendors can not make massive changes to Windows which effectively make them unique operating systems as they do with Android.

      A PC pretty much runs Windows XP, Windows 7 or Windows 8.

      You can't say the same about the numerous Android based tablets.
      • Your comparison not so good either

        My HP laptop runs openSUSE, Mint and Ubuntu. Oh, and I think it will still run the OS it came with, Windows7, but I haven't tried it in a long time.
      • Android devices and Windows devices are a very good comparison

        Yes, Android is open source, etc., but a manufacturer still needs to have a device certified/validated by Google to run the Google Services Framework. Once that certification is granted you can be assured that aside from a few apps that require the latest version of Android (like some programs require Windows 7/8 and not XP) just about any app will work on your device. So the differences are mostly cosmetic.

        Furthermore, OEMs actually do make changes to Windows on devices that they ship with Windows pre-installed.
  • There aren't many things I agree with the article

    Obviously there are android tablets, it's also obvious than even with a larger number there is no single vendor selling more tablets than iPads - they have differences.
    The same is happening with traditional PC's - Apple is maybe not the biggest, but for sure in the top - android can be more configurable than windows - but I'm sure there are Windows desktops.
    Whales are big, but they are not even dominant, the same metaphor could be used to show the opposite - hyenas can beat lions when they are in bigger numbers. And some whales are sadly in-dangerous species.
    But the most obvious about iOS and android tablets is growth of both, it's true that android tablets haven't grown like they did with smartphones, but it seems clear that the future will bring android to a distant front runner (unless something big happens).

    I believe iOS tablets will settle between 15 and 20% market share, doing a little better than with smartphones as the price difference is a bit less relevant and also because the not so good things about iOS are less relevant with tablets (like the lack of widgets or live tiles).

    Tablets running android are becoming dominant - that's for sure.

    I agree about one thing though, there is nothing terrible wrong with Apple losing market share, they have a target market that is highly profitable and there are no signs they are going to lose it anytime soon. Obviously until the next great thing, Apple growth will not be as it used to be - but the growth we have assisted was due to a disruptive technology that is becoming mature - from time to time those kind of things happen but not every single day.