Low Cost Android Tablets Level Market Share with Apple's iPad

Nearly one quarter of U.S. adults now own a tablet device, according to a report by the Pew Research Center released Monday. Of those, 48 percent own Android-based tablets, a dramatic increase from 2011, when Apple’s iPad dominated the market with an 81 percent share.

The tablet numbers were part of a broader Pew study into the “Future of Mobile News,” and were based on a survey of 9,513 U.S. adults between June 29 and August 8, 2012.

Pew Tablet Share By Year

Results from the survey revealed that 22 percent owned a tablet device and an additional 3 percent regularly used a tablet owned by someone else in the home. These numbers represent significant increases from previous surveys conducted in July 2011 and January 2012, which showed tablet ownership rates of 11 and 18 percent, respectively.

Pew Tablet Marketshare 2011

The flood of low-cost Android-based tablets into the market likely played a major role in the increase of both tablet adoption overall and Android’s market share gains, although better user experiences on the Android platform as the software matures cannot be ruled out.

Pew Tablet Share By Platform

Amazon started the low-cost race among major manufacturers with its US$199 Kindle Fire tablet, released in late September 2011. Since then, major Android players Google, Barnes & Noble, and Samsung have all released low-cost tablets at price points less than half of Apple’s iPad. Amazon also recently updated its tablet line, dropping the entry-level Kindle to $159 and adding an 8.9-inch model at $299.

Although based on Android, Amazon follows a model for its Fire tablets that is closer to Apple’s closed system than to Google’s completely open approach. As such, Pew’s report identifies what percentage the Kindle Fire line adds to Android’s marketshare overall.

Pew Tablet Marketshare

At 21 percent, Amazon holds a large portion of marketshare and shows the tablet race to be more diverse than it appears upon first glance. Trailing Amazon for Android tablet marketshare is Samsung’s Galaxy tablet line, with 8 percent marketshare. A mix of many other tablets comprise the remaining 19 percent.

Of note, the survey was conducted before Google released its flagship Nexus 7, and prior to Amazon’s Kindle price drop and introduction of additional models.

The report also identified the presence of brand or platform loyalty among consumers, although the results may be surprising. Of those survey respondents who owned both a tablet and a smartphone, 57 percent of iPad owners also owned an iPhone, compared to 32 percent who owned an Android-based smartphone. Similarly, 66 percent of Android tablet owners owned an Android smartphone, while 29 percent owned an iPhone.

The tablet ownership numbers revealed by Pew’s study are poised to change in the coming months. As noted above, the survey was performed before the release and price drops of key Android products from Google and Amazon, and Apple’s much-rumored iPad mini is expected to be unveiled this month. Depending on price and features, an iPad mini has the potential to swing marketshare back in Apple’s favor as more U.S. adults continue to shift to mobile platforms.