Apple loses dominance of worldwide tablet market

Company has lost almost 20% of marketshare in a year

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
May 3, 2013
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While Android seems to have, at least so far, won the war over smartphones over its rival Apple (though that could change within the next few years) the same could not be said for tablets. That was the area where Apple had gotten out way in front and always had a clear lead. But that dominance looks like it has come to an end.

Apple no longer leads the world in both units sold and marketshare as of this past quarter, according to a report from the IDC.

In the first quarter of 2013, Apple had 39.6% of the market, selling 19.5 million units, compared to Android, which now has 56.5% and sold 27.8 million.

That is a remarkable number, considering that just a year ago Apple had a big lead over Android. In the first quarter of 2012, Apple sold 11.8 million units for 58.1% of the market, while Android sold 8 million for a 39.4% share. Those number have essentially flipped in a single year.

There are some silver linings for Apple in this report.

First, it outperformed IDC's most recent projections of 18.7 million units for the quarter. As the IDC points out, Apple "historically has experienced a steep drop off in first quarter shipments (following strong holiday sales in the fourth quarter)," but the company "saw some smoothing of that seasonality this year."

Apple is also still the top tablet vendor, easily beating its closest rival, Samsung, which sold 8.8 units, for 17.9% of the market. No other tablet vendor could even muster 6% marketshare. 

"Sustained demand for the iPad mini and increasingly strong commercial shipments led to a better-than expected first quarter for Apple," Tom Mainelli, Research Director for Tablets at IDC, said in a statement. "In addition, by moving the iPad launch to the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple seems to have avoided the typical first-quarter slowdown that traditionally occurred when consumers held off buying in January and February in anticipation of a new product launch in March."

Tablet shipments had a pretty remarkable quarteroverall, growing by 142.4% year-to-year. The 49.2 million units sold was more than the entire first half of 2012.

So what does the future hold for tablets?

Android dominance, according to BitChemy Ventures analyst Sameer Singh.

While "iPad shipments normally see strong growth in calendar Q2," that most likely will not happen this year because of a lack of new products, Singh said in a blogpost Friday.

"Tim Cook's comments during Apple's earnings call suggest that any new products will only be launched in the fall, making Q4 the first full quarter after a new iPad/iPad Mini launch," Singh wrote.

This means that iPad shipments will decline in the next quarter to 17 or 18 million units sold.

"This dynamic, combined with exploding emerging market demand for Android tablets, is likely to push Android's market share above 60% (with shipments above 30 million).  This would essentially be a repeat of the iPhone vs. Android battle we saw in the smartphone market, over the past couple of years."

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