We were surprised how quickly it took Android to overtake the iPhone in device sales, and now the same thing is starting to happen on the tablet front. Prestigious firm Gartner’s latest numbers show tablet sales grew 68% in 2013, with the large-sized slates moving a whopping 195.4 million units to consumers. So who were the big winners in all that?
If you guessed Apple, well, for the first time ever you’d be wrong. It’s actually Android, as the world-renowned platform enjoyed 62% of the pie compared to Apple’s 36%. Gartner originally predicted Apple would enjoy a comfortable lead until 2015, but as we’ve seen on the phone side of things analysts can be quite conservative. Microsoft doesn’t seem worth mentioning with 2.1% at first glance, but that did equate to about 4 million units.
So what was the reasoning? It’s simple, really — cheaper tablets, and a good abundance of them. The cheapest current-gen flagship iPad costs $500, while you can get some Android tablets for under $100. Even powerful, capable tablets like the Nexus 7 only cost a little over $200. That’s not to mention Samsung’s long string of Galaxy Tab and Note devices filling out nearly every budget there is.
Despite all that, though, Apple is still the most successful overall vendor out of everyone who sold tablets last year. They were responsible for 70.4 million units and 36% of the share, while the next closest — Samsung — sold 37.4 million for 19.1%. ASUS, Amazon, and Lenovo rounded out the list with 5.6%, 4.8%, and 3.3% respectively. As for everyone else? They were all lumped into the dreaded “other” category that made up the other 31% of tablet sales on the year.
“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 a research director at Gartner.
“As the Android tablet market becomes highly commoditized, 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.”
Gartner is right, and many manufacturers have already started approaching their strategies with that mindset. Whether you’re looking at Samsung’s latest TabPro and NotePro devices or the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet, OEMs left and right are beginning to create compelling experiences that can only be made up of the right combination of capable hardware, sensible software, and affordable price.
We’ve already highlighted some of those devices in our Best Android Tablets feature for March 2014, and we’re sure to be in store for many more as the months move on. We’d be surprised if Android tablets didn’t gain an even bigger lead in 2014 with all the momentum they’ve enjoyed lately, and we imagine it won’t be long before we see other major players — such as HTC and Motorola — hop back into the scene now that the market has matured. Head to Gartner’s site for the full numbers.