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US data show slump in Apple tablet share

Kindle accelerates Android uptake

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

It’s no great surprise, perhaps, that Google’s Android is taking tablet share from Apple, but new figures suggest the rate of catch-up has accelerated this year.

A 1000-odd user survey recently carried out the US statistics gatherer the Pew Research Centre and The Economist which focused on US tablet ownership during the three weeks from 16 July found that Apple’s share of the market in the States had fallen from 81 per cent in the year-ago period to 52 per cent.

Android had not only grabbed share from Apple, but it has effectively squeezed out tablets based on other platforms. In 2011, 15 per cent of US tablet owners possessed a Android device - now it is 48 per cent.

That assumes that you count Amazon’s tablets as Android devices. They’re based on the Google OS, of course, but since it remains buried under the online retailer’s own UI, it could be argued that the Kindle Fire is not a true Android machine. In that case, it accounted for 21 per cent of the US tablet market, and Android proper 27 per cent, which is still an impressive rise from the 15 per cent figure, which comes from a time before the Fire had been released.

Behind the Kindle Fire, the next most popular Android tablet is the Samsung Galaxy family, members of which are in the hands of eight per cent of US tablet owners.

Most past market analyses have suggested Android won’t come close to matching Apple’s tablet market share until 2015 or 2016. Forecasts like these are a reaction to earlier predictions that Android would rush past Apple very quickly, as it has in the smartphone business. But this did not come to pass, prompting a more pro-Apple rethink on the part of most analysts.

The elephant in the room now is Windows 8, which may eat into Apple’s share and Google’s too, or may simply prove too expensive and fall flat outside of big business. Windows 8’s greater spread, touching not just the content viewer tablet category - notable examples include the Galaxy Tab series, the iPad, the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire line - but also laptops that can convert into tablets - the modern answer to the old-style Tablet PC, in other words.

Should these two groups be counted as one? From a usage model standpoint, perhaps not. But if fans are happy to claim Apple has a huge share of the personal computer market on the back if the iPad, why not grant Microsoft the same right to mix media tablet and productivity device numbers? ®

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