For the first time since Apple single-handedly kickstarted the tablet segment, Android became the No 1 tablet operating system (OS) in 2013, with 62 percent of the market, according to research firm Gartner, Inc. Worldwide sales of tablets to end users reached 195.4 million units in 2013, a 68 percent increase on 2012.
"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 Roberta Cozza, 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."
In 2013, the share of Apple's iOS dropped 16.8 percentage points as more people looked at smaller low-cost tablets in emerging markets. In emerging markets the growth was as high as 145 per cent, while mature markets grew 31 percent. "Apple's tablets remain strong in the higher end of the market and, Apple's approach will continue to force vendors to compete with full ecosystem offerings, even in the smaller-screen market as the iPad mini sees a greater share”, added Cozza.
Microsoft's tablet volumes improved, but still at a low base. "To compete, Microsoft needs to create 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.
From a vendor perspective, Apple's strong fourth quarter helped it maintain the top position with around 36% market share, compared to Samsung’s 19%. Samsung, however, recorded a 336 percent growth. Lenovo did particularly well in 2013 with tablet sales growing 198 percent, but is still number five with just over 3% market share.