On the face of it, the news that Android tablets now outsell Apple’s iPad should make for upsetting reading in Cupertino.
New Gartner figures for 2013 showed slates using Google’s OS now account for 61.9% of the market, a massive jump from 45.8% in 2012.
Meanwhile, Apple’s share has slipped from 52.8% to 36%.
Bad news for Apple, right? Well, not necessarily.
Because just like the smartphone space, there’s a lot more nuance to these numbers than first meets the eye.
Apple remains the number-one tablet manufacturer, still outdoing Samsung and Asus by some margin.
Admittedly, Samsung saw its share up from 7.4% in 2012 to 19.1% in 2013, but Apple has almost double that number.
Beyond that, for all Android’s growing dominance, there are mitigating factors which mean Tim Cook and co won’t be losing too much sleep over these stats.
The overall tablet market exploded in 2013, with sales up a colossal 68%.
These are truly “post-PC” times, just as Steve Jobs predicted when he launched the first iPad in 2010.
Apple sold over 70 million tablets in 2013, compared to 61 million in 2012. The iPad is still a cash cow, make no mistake.
Then there’s the fact that while budget Android tablets (many of them excellent) dominated the early part of last year, Apple didn’t actually update its iPad line until November.
The top-end iPad Air has seen massive demand, but the Retina Display–packing iPad mini was ]beset by delays](/mobiles/news/2013/11/ipadmini2releasedelayedbyretinadisplayproblems/).
It’ll be interesting to see first-quarter figures to see if Apple has actually regained ground on Android in 2014.
Like the iPhone, the iPad is more about the ecosystem than the device.
Apple’s tight control over the App Store means it still makes billions from software sales.
Existing users are still snaffling apps at a frightening rate, meaning it won’t be pushing the panic button just yet.
Of course, Gartner’s numbers still make happy reading for Google.
But the fact is that none of Apple’s rival tablets have the same holistic approach as the iPad.
Apple’s premium brand means it won’t be too concerned about its marketshare slipping.
It’ll have known from the start that ‘me-too’ products, sold cheaply, would eventually outstrip the iPad.
The thing is, have any of them got the same staying power as Apple’s slab? It’s unlikely.
With the App Store still growing and an impressive new line-up on the shelves, it’s far too early to start talking about the demise of the iPad.