Android extended its dominance from smartphones to tablets in 2013, ending the year with a 62% share of the market, according to new research from Gartner. That marks a big shift from a year ago, when the iPad still held sway with 53% of worldwide tablet sales to 46% for Android-based competitors.
The Apple tablet’s share has since fallen to 36% as more people turn to a range of Android devices as an alternative to the iPad.
"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," stated Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner. Emerging markets in particular helped drive sales of low-cost Android tablets, with growth in those areas up 145% last year.
Apple has tried to keep pace with the shift to smaller, less expensive tablets with its rollout of the 7-inch iPad Mini two years ago and updated version last fall. But the iPad is still mainly the preserve of high-end users in mature markets, where tablets sales grew just 31% in 2013.
With its Windows-based Surface tablets, Microsoft last year doubled its market share—but only to 2.1% from 1%. That’s hardly enough to throw a scare into Apple or Google. "To compete, Microsoft needs to create a 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," said Cozza.
Among tablet manufacturers, Apple managed to stay on top in 2013, though its market share despite its market share slipping to 36%. That’s thanks in part to a strong fourth quarter, when it sold 26 million iPads. The expansion of Samsung’s Galaxy tablet line helped the Korean electronics giant capture 19.1% of the market, nearly tripling its 7.4% share in 2012.
Asus, Amazon and Lenovo rounded out the top five tablet makers, with Amazon seeing its share shrink from 6.6% to 4.8%. Lenovo, by contrast, jumped from 1.9% to 3.3%, on the strength of sales for its Yoga model and Windows tablets. The company, however, has yet to establish a strong brand outside China.
Worldwide tablet sales overall increased 68% in 2013 to 195.4 million. Gartner said the broader market for “ultramobiles”—tablets, hybrid tablet/PC devices, and clamshell notebooks—grew by the same rate, reaching 216 million units. The research firm said the hybrid was the fastest-growing category because the keyboard allows better use of productivity apps, while providing the portability of a tablet.
That suggests more people who no longer want to deal with multiple devices will upgrade to hybrids in 2014, according to Cozza. Research firm IDC has separately projected growth in tablet shipments will slow to 22% this year from 50.6% in 2013.