IDC: iPad retains tablet share crown, Android rapidly catching up

IDC: iPad retains tablet share crown, Android rapidly catching up

Summary: While worldwide tablet shipments rest ultimately on Apple's shoulders -- for now -- Android is making in-roads with its vast array of supported devices and manufacturers.


Latest statistics from research firm IDC show while Apple retains the crown in the tablet market share space, Google-owned Android is quickly catching up quarter on quarter.

In all, IDC pegs the total tablet shipments at 27.8 million during Q3 2012, an increase to just shy of 50 percent year-over-year and a 7 percent increase on the previous second quarter. 

Screen Shot 2012-11-05 at 08.34.40

The greatest gain came from Android, thanks to the bevy of manufacturers offering the 'alternative' operating system, at the expense of Apple, which gained in shipments but lost out significantly in market share.

Though Apple surged by 26 percent in the third quarter year-over-year, Samsung's tablet share rocketed by 325 percent, while Asus saw an increase of more than 240 percent. Combined shipments total 7.5 million Android units compared to 14 million iPad shipments -- almost double -- but quarter on quarter, the odds are stacking in Android's favor.

Since the second quarter, where Apple's tablet market share stood at 65.5 percent, it's now reduced to just over half of the overall tablet share. 

While Apple has yet to reach the so-called 'saturation' point with its iPad tablet, sales are slowing down. The introduction of the 7-inch iPad mini last month may reinvigorate sales among the petite tablet niche, but Apple has hinted during its fourth quarter earnings call that the profit margin is far slimmer than its larger iPad counterpart, therefore profits may suffer as a result.

Apple recently stated it had sold the 100 millionth iPad, but the figure disappointed analysts, coming in short of their expectations. The technology giant's fourth quarter ended abruptly as a result, after the company missed estimates, thanks to less-than-expected sales in the iPad division, despite an increase in sales by more than one-quarter on the same quarter a year ago.

For the Cupertino, CA.-based maker of shiny rectangles, the 7-inch tablet strategy was an all-but inevitable if the company wants to cling on to the top spot in tablet market share. 

But at the same time, Apple's iPad mini pricing point of $329, in spite of its arguably better design and closed software--hardware ecosystem, will leave many heading in the direction of Android- and Windows-powered tablets.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's debut into the tablet market, the business and enterprise ready Surface tablet, has yet to make in-roads. Interest in the Windows-powered tablet, designed for business users and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) users alike, has taken the software-turned-tablet maker by surprise, as deliveries slowed down across Europe after there weren't enough shipments to go around.

Microsoft is expected to build 3-5 million Surface tablets this quarter, according to reports, as the company charges itself with contending with Apple in the niche business-only space. 

Topics: Apple, Android, iPad, Tech Industry

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  • I don't think shipment and market share mean a thing...

    ... profits per unit shipped should be used to measure a platforms success and long term availability.

    how many WP8, Androids tablets, BB Playbooks have been shipped and how much have they made their makers? Thats the figure I'd be interested in as well as how many per model. There must be dozens (hundreds yet?) different Android tablets around...

    While Apple might be approaching a market saturation point, it's likely they still make a hefty profit out of each slab.
    • But it's important to expand market share...

      because of software makers. The bigger the market, the more likely software vendors will increase their product as well.
    • I suppose that is where we differ

      I'm not really interested in how much money a company is milking out of its customers. I am interested in the quality of the machine and the technical advances it brings. More importantly I am interested in how interesting a platform appears. A platform can be incredibly successful without making a penny for its creators. A platform that is incredibly successful can also all but disappear in just a few short years, such is the nature of our industry. Some examples: Commodore Amiga, Atari, BlackBerry, Nokia, Amstrad and so on - so your metric appears way off from where I am standing.
      • Obviously you are when you include the term, "milking".

        Beyond that, you make some valid points. Quality is very important and it's unfortunate that the vast majority of Android devices lack that feature. Samsung is not the best in quality across all lines, but their Galaxy series does have that quality. Other brands are better noted for their quality (or lack thereof) which is why Google itself has chosen to get directly involved by buying Motorola Mobility.

        As for your statement of, "A platform can be incredibly successful without making a penny for its creators," that's just patently false. If the creator cannot make any money off that platform it will simply die as we've seen with every brand you named above. Yes, some of them were hugely capable and even took the market for a while, but once the money stops coming in, the platform will die. Your followup statement itself proves that.

        However, what we haven't seen yet is a significant drop in sales of Apple's iOS devices. Considering Apple maintains double-digit growth numbers in unit sales, you cannot yet say they are dying just because their market share is dropping; it only points out that the market is growing faster than the company can keep up. Adding to this the fact that we simply don't know where those other brands' sales will stabilize means that Apple could keep a majority share by brand while losing majority share by platform. That's hardly going to hurt Apple's bottom line, is it?
  • profits per unit

    are fine when you have the only one available, or even when you have a notable better design than the other guys. But when the other guys catch up and leave your product behind and decide to settle for a smaller markup to move more units, you're going to rapidly lose market share. This is the boat Apple is in now. The Android makers have better hardware, better software, lower prices, and momentum. Sure, they will have to move twice as many tablets as Apple to make the same profit, but at the rate they are going, that won't take very long.
    • I'll only agree with two of your statements about Android

      And that doesn't include the one about, "they will have to move twice as many tablets ... to make the same profit." To be honest, considering the microscopic profits they make from those Android tablets (only about $30 each) they will have to move more than 5x as many tablets to make the same profit as Apple. I'm not saying it's impossible, only that you underestimated the numbers.

      As for those four statements, "better hardware, better software, lower prices and momentum," I'll definitely grant you the latter two, but there's a difference between better and "better". Android tablets may have higher specs, but if the quality isn't there they're not necessarily better products. The same holds true for the software when I continue to read reviews that mention "less polish", "unfinished" and especially "less secure." Again, the brands are improving here and Google has made significant strides on its part, but the software itself isn't "better"--yet.
  • You Can Have High Margin And Low Volume...

    ...or you can have low margin and high volume. And markets that start out as the former tend to move to the latter, they never go the other way.

    Computers started out as the former (mainframes), then moved further and further to the latter (minis, then PCs). Further progression in the same direction seems inevitable.