My how far we’ve come in just a short time. When the iPad launched in 2010 and quickly rocketed its way to success, some saw Apple dominating the tablet market for a decade or more given the sheer backing they had both in development circles and in consumer mindshare. Google saw this as a challenge though, and when it launched Android 3.0 Honeycomb way back in 2011 it proved to the world that it was serious about taking on Apple, and over the years Google and its OEM partners have slowly edged away Apple’s lead, with 2013 being the first year that Android tablets significantly outpaced iPad sales, and we have the lower end market to thank for it. While that’s not exactly a way to jump for joy for many Android enthusiasts, Android’s biggest user base has long been the mid to entry-level market, and tablets don’t seem to be changing that make up for Google’s OS either. The analyst firm Gartner has released their numbers and the breakdown is pretty interesting. In 2013 there were a total of 195 million tablets sold worldwide, and of that 195 million tablets sold Android powered a whopping 121 million of them. Apple took a distant second place with 70 million iPads sold, although that was still an increase from 2012 when they sold just 61 million, which still bodes well for sales and profits of Apple in general. Microsoft still maintains the ultra-distant 3rd place spot with only 4 million tablets sold in 2013, which again was still a significant increase over the 1 million sold in 2012.
While it’s not surprising to see Android’s eventual takeover of the tablet market given the exact same thing happened with the phone market back in 2010, it’s interesting to see just how well the lower end of the market brings the numbers up. Apple is well known for their high-quality high-priced products, and that’s been their greatest weakness in just about every market they’ve ever entered as a tech company. With competitors like Samsung releasing cheaper and cheaper tablets and even straight up copying Apple with colorful plastic shells, it’s any wonder why people don’t bother buying Apple devices when they’re on a tight budget and can get a similar product for considerably less. While the lower-end tablet market doesn’t offer quite the same user experience as a high end device does, it gets the job done and that’s well seen through the product sales too. Smaller, lesser-known companies that have delivered pure garbage low-end tablets in the past have mostly gone away, replaced by bigger guys like Samsung, ASUS and Lenovo. Amazon is still kicking too, with a modest increase in their sales they still hold the 4th place among vendors, however their actual market percentage dropped nearly 2 points year over year as their rivals picked up more sales overall. Lenovo, still below Amazon at 5th place, grow nearly 200% year-over-year, as their Yoga hybrid tablets took off significantly.
Looking further up the list we see ASUS and Samsung competing for 2nd place, although Samsung grew so significantly in 2013 it far outpaced ASUS, whereas the two companies were only two percentage points away from each other in 2012. What’s not clear in the numbers from ASUS are just how many Nexus 7 tablets are included, as the Nexus 7 is a super high quality tablet at a mid-to-low-range tablet price thanks to Google’s subsidies of the product. Samsung took the biggest year-over-year lead though, and it’s likely due to their constant flooding of the market with new products that are all in different categories. Samsung went from a modest 7.4% market share in 2012 to a rather substantial 19.1% in 2013, nearly tripling their market share in only a year. What’s even more curious is that 60 million of the 121 million Android tablets sold are from “Other” vendors, meaning there are still a significant number of OEMs out there that sell Android tablets but don’t sell enough to chart in the top 5. Given that half of the Android tablets sold are from other vendors, one has to wonder just how cheap these are, and if said consumers will once again come back to Android given the poor experience held on many of the ultra-cheap tablets out there.