Ever since the launch of the first iPad in 2010, Apple has dominated as far as tablets are concerned. Research reports have established the iPad as not only the leading tablet but also as to having the most popular operating system – iOS, a feat in itself considering the sheer number of Android tablets.
Other studies have highlighted the iPad for being the most popular tablet for browsing and mobile commerce.
However, the iPad’s market share has begun to wobble in recent times. Back in July, Strategy Analytics said Android accounted for two in three tablets, and one month later Canalys was saying a similar thing (albeit with reduced shipment numbers for Android). The delayed introduction of the much-rumored iPad 5 and second-generation iPad mini has hardly helped Apple’s cause this fall.
But adding to Apple’s conundrum, researchers now claim that Android tablets are catching up on hardware revenues, while dragging down iPad prices.
In its latest report, ABI Research said that three events in particular highlighted how the iPad had “passed the baton” to Android in the second quarter, specifically mentioning larger shipments, a parity with Apple on hardware revenues and the effect Android prices have had on iPad average selling prices (ASPs).
“Smaller 7-inch class tablets are finally the majority of shipments,” said the firm's senior practice director, Jeff Orr, in a statement. “The 7.9-inch iPad mini represented about 60% of total iPad shipments and 49% of iPad-related device revenues in the quarter."
The company also said that the overall tablet market was worth $12.7 billion in value at the end of Q2, but significantly added that it was the first time the iPad had only represented 50% of worldwide end-user revenues.
Apple, though, does remain the overall leader by vendor, and Orr himself has previously admitted that the research firm sees “no single vendor challenging Apple’s dominance anytime soon”. Despite this, the analyst has urged Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s executive team to up their game.
“Twelve months is a long time for the peak lifecycle of a contemporary tablet. To remain a leader, Apple just continues to innovate and address real-world market needs,” said Orr.
Researchers have questioned the wisdom of comparing Android – which is, after all, an entire ecosystem – to iPad shipments in the past, and some have said that shipments should not be confused with profitability.
“Market share without context is not only useless, it is worse than useless because it is likely to be misinterpreted,” wrote industry observer John Kirk in Techpinions. “Scoring by market share alone and ignoring profit is like saying that a baseball team won because it had more hits when the other team scored more runs.”
(For reference data about the tablet market, check TabTimes' The State of the Tablet Market)