Huge growth in tablet sales dominated by Android, which pushed Apple out of number one spot
Sales of tablets globally in 2013 rose by nearly three quarters on the previous year according to new research.
Worldwide sales of tablets to end users reached 195.4 million units in 2013, a 68% increase on 2012, according to Gartner.
Android dominated 2013 for tablets, stated Gartner, as the growth in these devices was fuelled by the low end smaller screen tablet market, and first time buyers; this led Android to become the number one tablet operating system (OS), with 61.9% of the market, or 120,961,445 units sold. This is up from its 45.8% in 2012.
While sales of iOS tablets grew in the fourth quarter of 2013, iOS's share declined to 36% in 2013, or 70,400,159 units sold, putting Apple in second place in the table behind Android. In 2012 iOS had been in first position with 52.8% marketshare.
'In 2013, tablets became a mainstream phenomenon, with a vast choice of Android-based tablets being within the budget of mainstream consumers while still offering adequate specifications,' said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner. 'As the Android tablet market becomes highly commoditised, in 2014 it will be critical for vendors to focus on device experience and meaningful technology and ecosystem value, beyond just hardware and cost, to ensure brand loyalty and improved margins.'
In 2013, the share of Apple's iOS dropped as market demand was driven by the improved quality of smaller low cost tablets from branded vendors, and whitebox products continued to grow in emerging markets. Gartner analysts said emerging markets recorded growth of 145% in 2013, while mature markets grew 31%.
'Apple's tablets remain strong in the higher end of the market and, Apple's approach will continue to force vendors to compete with full ecosystem offerings, even in the smaller screen market as the iPad mini sees a greater share,' added Cozza.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's tablet volumes improved in 2013 but share remained small, rising from 1% in 2012 to 2.1% in 2013 with 4,031,802 units sold.
Despite Microsoft now acting more rapidly to evolve Windows 8.1, its ecosystem still failed to capture major consumers' interest on tablets commented Cozza: 'To compete, Microsoft needs to create compelling ecosystem proposition for consumers and developers across all mobile devices, as tablets and smartphones become key devices for delivering applications and services to users beyond the PC. Microsoft enjoys better shares in ultramobiles that are more productivity oriented, where its partners are ramping up new form factors and designs.'
Cozza noted that the tablet market has become a challenging environment for branded hardware driven players. They are squeezed by service-driven and content-driven players, and aggressive prices from whitebox vendors. In addition, a situation where the top two tablet vendors have captured 55% of the market in 2013 compounds the challenge, she added.
From a manufacturer perspective, Apple's strong fourth quarter helped it to maintain the top position in the market in 2013 with 36% marketshare.
Samsung, ranked number two with 19.1% of the market, exhibited the highest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors, at 336%, in 2013. The expansion and improvement of its Galaxy tablet portfolio, together with strong marketing and promotions, helped Samsung shrink the gap with Apple. In line with its smartphone approach, Samsung's over-segmentation of its tablet portfolio helped it to offer a wider size and price choice but also helped it to test the market and find niches.
Amongst the vendors that have a less than 6% share of the worldwide tablet market, Lenovo did particularly well in 2013 with tablet sales growing 198% said Isabelle Durand, principal research analyst at Gartner: 'Lenovo's success is a combination of launching innovative new tablet models during the second half of 2013 and the sales of its Yoga model and Windows tablets doing particularly well. Moreover, Lenovo's strong R&D capabilities and its ability to react quickly to tablet market dynamics have helped it introduce innovative and a range of attractive products to the market. However, establishing a strong brand with consumers outside China, which is especially important in the tablet market, remains a key challenge.'
Gartner does not track the tablet market in isolation from other device categories. Tablets are a part of the wider ultramobile market that also includes hybrids and clamshells.
Worldwide sales of ultramobiles to end users reached 216 million units in 2013, an increase of 68% on 2012. The tablet remained the most popular device, accounting for 90% of overall sales of ultramobiles in 2013, followed by the clamshell and the hybrid, with 8% and 2% of sales, respectively.