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Android seven-inchers swipe rug from under Apple

iPad share slumps

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The question is, does Apple’s tablet market share - or Android’s for that matter - actually matter? Apple is certainly selling more of the darn things, but after a brief year’s relief, sales of Android alternatives are rising even more quickly.

According to ABI Research, a market watcher, Apple’s share of the world tablet market fell in Q3 2012 to 55 per cent, the lowest share Apple has ever had since launching the iPad in 2010.

Apple has been market leader since that time, but as rivals have followed it to market, its share has inevitably fallen. By Christmas 2010, it seemed that tablets from Samsung, Toshiba, Asus, Acer and others would push Android past iOS during 2011. However, the launch of the iPad 2 and slow roll-outs of Google’s tablet-specific version of Android, Honeycomb, saw Apple extend its lead during the year and into 2012, a trend given extra momentum by Spring’s debut of the iPad 3 and its “retina” screen.

Now, though, competitors’ focus on the 7in segment of the market has started to pay off, most notably with growing sales of the Amazon Kindle Fire and the launch of Google’s Asus-made Nexus 7.

That has prompted Apple to get out a small tablet of it’s own, ABI suggested. “With the introduction of a smaller, lower-cost iPad Mini, Apple has acknowledged Android’s beachhead of 7in-class tablets,” said ABI senior practice director Jeff Orr.

Yet Apple doesn’t appear to have rushed the Mini to market. If the rumour-mill is anything to go by, Apple was working on the Mini during 2011, if only to have a design in the labs ready to release should the need arise.

Will the Mini slow Android’s growth? Probably not, says Orr, who reckons the Mini will broaden Apple’s appeal, but not win over punters who will be impressed not only by rival tablets’ specs, but more particularly their low prices.

The Nexus 7, the Kindle Fire HD, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD and others cost a lot less than the Mini. Time was when a lower price meant lower quality, but these tablets’ makers have upped their game in the past year, releasing products styled to match Apple’s.

These devices have grabbed the headlines, but Samsung still sells more than all of the them but Apple, its Tab 2 series and Galaxy Note family winning over plenty of punters. How well it will hold up against the barrage of marketing from Apple, Google and Amazon at the moment remains to be seen, but its brand is strong and it does well promoting its products through leftfield channels such as pop-up stores in shopping centres. It'll be aided by Google, which will undoubtedly want to push its co-sponsored Nexus 10.

Roll on Christmas. ®

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