Tablet market: when will Android overcome the iPad? Mid 2013, says analyst

November 13, 2012
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Back in March, I wrote a post where I predicted that Android tablets would gain more than 50 percent of the market by the end of the year. That post was published a few days after the announcement of the iPad 3 (or the old new iPad, as some call it), and tech sites were teaming with articles that proclaimed the renewed supremacy of Apple’s tablet. And suffice it to say, some of the comments to my post were… negative.

So, what came of my prediction? Well, I was wrong, but, to my credit, only by a slight margin. According to the latest report from IDC, non-iPad tablets accrued shipments of 13.8 million units in the third quarter of 2012, which equates to a market share of 49.6%.

idc market share table

The “Others” category includes the BlackBerry PlayBook and very small numbers of Windows 7 tablet PCs. Nevertheless, Android tabs (including the lost son, Kindle Fire) accounted for the vast majority of the non-iPad sales.

With the launch of the iPad mini and the associated marketing blitz, Apple will likely improve its tablet sales in the last quarter of the year, so my prediction will probably not come true this year. Still, I file it in my good predictions folder, because, well, I was pretty darn close.

But when will Android finally tip the scales?

Singh: Android at more than 50% by the middle of next year

Sameer Singh, a mobile industry analyst that writes on the Tech Thoughts blogs, ran the numbers and came back with a prediction. Based on tablet shipments figures from the previous quarters, Singh plotted a growth scenario for next year, one that puts the Android platform ahead of iOS by the middle of 2013.

The analyst notes that Android has outpaced the growth of the iPad in six out of the eight previous quarters, and if this trend continues, Apple will not be able to claim absolute domination of the tablet market for much longer.

IDC - Tablet Shipments

Buoyed by the iPad mini, Apple might get hold of 55% of the market in the important holiday season, estimates Singh, but the Android pursuers are expected to rebound in the next quarter.

Where does this prediction leave Windows 8 tablets? Singh is not too optimist about the performance of Windows 8/RT tablets, and seeing that industry sources predict below-expectations sales for the Surface RT, and with Microsoft’s CEO calling sales “modest”, we tend to agree.

The iPhone scenario

At this point, it’s safe to say that we are not heading to another iPod scenario – the iPad will not remain the sole meaningful product in its product category, like the iPod was for media players. As tablets become mainstream, Android will continue to gain market share and will eventually outnumber iOS devices, just like it happened with smartphones.

Moreover, the popularity of the Nexus 7, the unexpected success of Samsung’s line of tablets, and the affordable Nexus 10 (which just launched today) are bound to accelerate the trend.

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