Android Surges But iOS Remains King of 4Q11 Tablets

Apple’s worldwide tablet marketshare dropped in the fourth quarter of 2011, but surging growth in the market overall still allowed Apple to dramatically increase shipments over the prior year and remain the largest tablet platform, according to a report by research firm IDC early Monday.

IDC Total Tablet Shipments

Chart by The Mac Observer from IDC data.

Total tablet shipments rose by 56.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, and 155 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010. For Apple, this represented an increase in shipments during the fourth quarter of 4.3 million units, from 11.1 million units in 3Q11 to 15.4 million in 4Q11.

Despite the increase in shipments, the strong entry of the Amazon Fire into the market combined with steady growth from other Android-based products meant that Apple’s marketshare dropped from 61.5 percent in 3Q11 to 54.7 percent in 4Q11. Amazon’s 4.7 million units gave it second place with 16.8 percent marketshare for the quarter, while Samsung rose from 5.5 percent to 5.8 percent.

Rounding out the remaining players, Barnes & Noble fell from 4.5 to 3.5 percent, Pandigital fell from 2.9 to 2.5 percent, struggling Blackberry shrunk from 1.1 to 0.7 percent, and the now-defunct WebOS was eliminated, falling from 5 percent to zero.

IDC Tablet Shipments by Platform

Chart by The Mac Observer from IDC data.

Looking forward, IDC expects Android to continue to grow in marketshare at the expense of Apple. “As the sole vendor shipping iOS products, Apple will remain dominant in terms of worldwide vendor unit shipments,” Tom Mainelli, research director for Mobile Connected Devices, said in a statement. “However, the sheer number of vendors shipping low-priced, Android-based tablets means that Google’s OS will overtake Apple’s in terms of worldwide market share by 2015. We expect iOS to remain the revenue market share leader through the end of our 2016 forecast period and beyond.”

As explained by MacRumors, IDC’s numbers reflect manufacturers’ shipments into the sales channel and not necessarily sales to consumers. While companies such as Apple and Amazon sell the majority of their products directly to end users, other companies, such as Samsung, rely on third-party retailers. The end result is that IDC’s numbers may reflect unsold inventory sitting on store shelves and not be indicative of actual performance.