Tablet shipments and adoption are in high acceleration mode as the new iPad helped drive the platform into new sales territory in Q2. According to IDC’s Quarterly Media Tablet Tracker, 25 million units shipped in Q2 -- a 33.6% increase from the previous quarter’s 18.7 million and 66.2% over the same period in 2011.
Leading the way was a record quarter for Apple and its newly released iPad with Retina Display. In fact, Tom Mainelli, research director for connected devices at IDC, said that Apple even beat its own sales for the last holiday 2011 quarter.
It is still Apple’s market. “The vast majority of consumers continue to favor the iPad over competitors,” Mainelli said. The company’s device is making important headway into vertical markets like education even as shipments ease their growth curve in the more mature markets. Moreover, international expansion is more than making up for any leveling of the market in core markets. Apple shipped 17 million iPads in Q2, even better than the 15.4 million for Q4 2011.
But keep an eye on the Android competitors. Samsung got some traction in the quarter, with 2.4 million units shipped -- more than double the year-ago period. Amazon, too, came back somewhat from a post-holiday slump with an estimated 1.2 million Kindle Fires shipped.
Nevertheless, Apple still owns 68.2% of the tablet market worldwide -- up from a 61.5% share a year ago. Samsung is next in line with 9.6%, and Amazon with 5%.
Heading into the holidays, however, the new Windows 8 tablets plus new entries from Amazon and likely Apple will make for an interesting and unpredictable final quarter. “If anything, there is a real risk that people will have too many options from which to choose,” says IDC Program VP, Clients and Displays Bob O’Donnell. But this confusion may actually enhance Apple’s position as the default choice. With uncertainty over picking an Amazon or Samsung version of Android, or choices between Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, consumers could just go with an iPad.
Personally, I think if Apple makes good on the rumor of a half-sized iPad at a $200-$250 price point, it may be game over. I have for review here a Fire, iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, ZTE 7-inch Android tablet and a Nook Color. Even factoring in sheer inertia, I have forced myself to use all of these devices for extended periods to see if any one of them could weave itself into my daily use.
Form factor is the only real variable that matters in terms of a more comfortable nighttime e-book reading experience. For that use case, a 7-incher has a compelling point to make, and the Fire has become a fixture on the nightstand. Otherwise it is all about the app ecosystem and Web browsing. A 7-inch iPad is a no-brainer.