ABI Research Finds Apple iPad Losing Share to Android in Q3

Apple Inc. led the media tablet market it created for the 10th straight quarter, but ABI Research issued a report that said iPad's market share declined 14 points during the September quarter to 55 percent. Android devices took 44 percent of the market and almost all of Apple's 14 point decline, and the firm believes that trend will continue.

"Fifty-five percent is the lowest share Apple has ever had since launching the iPad in 2010," the company wrote in its report.

The Apple-Android See Saw

ABI's figures are similar to figures for August of 2012 from Pew Research, which had Apple at 52 percent of the market, and Android at 48 percent. It's not a direct comparison, but the trend has been fairly consistent since Google introduced the US$199 Nexus 7 and Amazon announced its own Kindle Fire HD at $199, and that trend is that Apple is losing share.

“With the introduction of a smaller, lower-cost iPad mini, Apple has acknowledged Android’s beachhead of 7-inch-class tablets, though at the same time, it has failed to deliver a knock-out punch through innovation, pricing, and availability during the most critical selling period of the year,” ABI's senior practice director Jeff Orr said in a statement.

Mr. Orr added the usual refrain that more OEMs, more devices, and more more more of Android will continue to build the platform's tablet share going forward.

The report did not, however, address the stark reality that Android tablet owners don't actually do anything with them. iPad accounts for almost all of tablet-based Internet traffic, and over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S., iPad was responsible for almost all Internet purchases made from tablet devices.

The report also didn't account for the release of the iPad mini on October 23rd, after the third quarter on which it was reporting. Despite the reality that iPad mini wasn't for sale during the third quarter, the research firm concluded that, "ABI Research believes the iPad mini has caused demand for standard iPad models to shift down-market."

It's a curious conclusion to reach under the circumstances, and it's one that lies in contrast to Wall Street analysts that consistently get it right, such as Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee, who has called the iPad mini the competition' worse nightmare. He has also disagreed with those, like ABI, who feel that the price of the iPad mini at $329 is a problem for the company.

Ben Reitzes of Barclays also ventured a different opinion on the cannibalizing effect of the iPad mini. The analyst has said that he believes 25-50 percent of iPad mini sales this quarter, which he estimated at 5-10 million units, will have cannibalized sales of the iPad 2 and iPad with Retina Display.

Other analysts we trust have offered similar opinions, and it contrasts with the notion that, "iPad mini has caused demand for standard iPad models to shift down-market." That's a very dire statement that paints the picture of the larger iPads dropping off considerably in unit volume.

None of which is intended to make excuses for Apple losing share in the tablet space. The reality is that Apple has lost share. It had 81 percent of the market as recently as July of 2011, and owns just more than half today.

Our point is that it remains to be seen what kind of effect the iPad mini and the new iPad with Retina Display will have on the tablet market. This is the holiday season, and people are buying right now. Messrs. Wu and Reitzes may have gotten it wrong, but we trust their conclusions more than those published by ABI Research in this report.

If Apple loses more share this quarter, this holiday shopping season, the Apple doubters probably have it right and Android will soon surpass iPad in sales. With all those Android devices gathering dust, however, we don't see that happening, and we expect Apple to reclaim share this quarter.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.