Android tablet shipments slump in Q1, Apple iPad dominates

4 May 2012

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The new Apple iPad

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New figures from IDC show that Apple’s iPad has re-asserted its dominance of the tablet space as Android devices saw a steep slump in Q1. Total worldwide tablet shipments reached 17.4m during the quarter with overall sales up 120pc year-on-year.

This was 1.2m units below IDC’s projection for the quarter. While IDC predicted a sharp seasonal slowdown of -34pc from the previous quarter’s record-breaking 28.2m units, the actual decline was slightly steeper at -38.4pc.

The total still represents a robust year-over-year growth rate of 120pc, up from 7.9m units in the first quarter of 2011.

"Apple re-asserted its dominance in the market this quarter, driving huge shipment totals at a time when all but a few Android vendors saw their numbers drop precipitously after posting big gains during the holiday buying season," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices at IDC.

"Apple’s move to position the iPad as an all-purpose tablet, instead of just a content consumption device, is resonating with consumers as well as educational and commercial buyers. And its decision to keep a lower-priced iPad 2 in the market after it launched the new iPad in March seems to be paying off, as well."

Apple shines

Apple shipped 11.8m iPads during the quarter, down from 15.4m units in the fourth quarter of 2011, and grew its worldwide share from 54.7pc in 4Q11 to 68pc in 1Q12.

Amazon, which stormed into the market in 4Q11 to grab second place with 16.8pc of the market on shipment of 4.8m units, saw its share decline significantly in the first quarter to just more than 4pc, falling to third place as a result.

Samsung took advantage of Amazon’s weakness to regain the No 2 position while Lenovo vaulted into the No 4 spot, followed by Barnes & Noble at No 5.

Although total Android shipments were down sharply in 1Q12, companies such as Samsung and Lenovo are beginning to gain traction in the market with their latest generation of Android products. IDC expects the segment to rebound quickly as other vendors introduce new products in the second quarter and beyond.

"It seems some of the mainstream Android vendors are finally beginning to grasp a fact that Amazon, B&N and Pandigital figured out early on: namely, to compete in the media tablet market with Apple, they must offer their products at notably lower price points," Mainelli added.

"We expect a new, larger-screened device from Amazon at a typically aggressive price point, and Google will enter the market with an inexpensive, co-branded ASUS tablet designed to compete directly on price with Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

“The search giant’s new tablet will run a pure version of Android, whereas the Fire runs Amazon’s own forked version of the OS that cuts Google out of the picture."

The makings of an incredible 2012 holiday shopping season

The impact that Microsoft Windows 8- and Windows RT-based tablets, which are widely expected to ship into the market by the fourth quarter, will have on the overall tablet market is yet to be determined. Pricing on the new Windows tablets hasn’t been announced, and that will be a critical factor when it comes to winning over consumers. Consumer reception to the new OS and the success of integration with traditional Windows systems will also be critical.

"The worldwide tablet market is entering a new phase in the second half of 2012 that will undoubtedly reshape the competitive landscape," said Bob O’Donnell, programme vice-president, Clients and Displays. "While Apple will continue to sit comfortably on the top for now, the battle for the next several positions is going to be fierce.

“Throw in ultrabooks, the launch of Windows 8, and a few surprise product launches, and you have all the makings of an incredible 2012 holiday shopping season."

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com