iPad Tops 4Q2012 Tablet Market Share, But Lead is Shrinking

In a record quarter for tablet shipments, Apple remained firmly in first place, but saw its market share lead drop in the face of fierce competition from lower-cost Android options, according to data released by IDC Thursday. Apple’s iPad line captured 43.6 percent of the worldwide fourth quarter 2012 tablet market, a decrease from the 51.7 percent it enjoyed in the same quarter of 2011.

Although its market share decreased year-over-year, the Cupertino company still managed to grow shipments by over 48 percent, selling 22.9 million iPads in the 2012 quarter compared to 15.1 million in 4Q2011.

Apple’s strongest competition came from Samsung and Amazon, who captured 15.1 and 11.5 percent of the fourth quarter 2012 tablet market, respectively, to take second and third place. Samsung in particular experienced strong growth during the year, with worldwide tablet shipments rising from 2.2 million in 4Q2011 to 7.9 million in 4Q2012, an increase of 263 percent.

Taiwanese firm ASUS also had a strong year. Although taking fourth place overall for the quarter, the company saw its tablet shipments increase 402.5 percent during 2012, rising from 600 thousand shipments in 4Q2011 to 3.1 million in 4Q2012.

In a growing market, only Barnes & Noble experienced a setback. The company’s redesigned Nook HD tablets, launched in September 2012, were not enough to grow the brand, and shipments fell 27.7 percent on the year from 1.4 million to 1.0 million.

Although not cracking the top 5, Microsoft was estimated by IDC to have shipped “just shy” of 900,000 Surface RT units. That number may grow for the Redmond company in the coming quarters following the release of the more capable x86-powered Surface Pro in February.

Worldwide, total tablet shipments reached a record high 52.5 million during the quarter, an increase of 75.3 percent over 2011.

Vendor 4Q12 Shipments 4Q12 Market Share 4Q11 Shipments 4Q11 Market Share
Apple 22.9m 43.6% 15.1m 51.7%
Samsung 7.9m 15.1% 2.2m 7.3%
Amazon 6.0m 11.5% 4.7m 15.9%
ASUS 3.1m 5.8% 0.6m 2.0%
Barnes & Noble 1.0m 1.9% 1.4m 4.6%
Others 11.6m 22.1% 5.5m 18.5%
Total 52.5m 100% 29.9m 100%

Tom Mainelli, tablet research director at IDC, explained the results:

We expected a very strong fourth quarter, and the market didn’t disappoint. New product launches from the category’s top vendors, as well as new entrant Microsoft, led to a surge in consumer interest and very robust shipments totals during the holiday season. The record-breaking quarter stands in stark contrast to the PC market, which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in more than five years.

Apple’s iPad is likely to maintain its lead in the near term, but the aggressive growth and increasing capabilities of products from the company’s rivals paints a much more competitive picture in the coming quarters.