About iPad market share

The mainstream media had a field day last week when market research firm IDC revealed that Apple’s iPad market share had fallen slightly, while its competitors were on the rise. While organizations like the Wall Street Journal seemed to revel in the news, the stories were a bit misleading.

Apple’s iPad market share did in fact fall to 43.6 percent from 46.4 percent for the previous quarter. While the WSJ seems to think that “strong competition” from Samsung and other name-brand competitors lead to the iPad decrease, I believe it was something much simpler.

The fact is, for a while, the iPad was the only game in town — it had all the market share, because there were no competitors. As companies like Samsung copied Apple’s designs and put out cheaper, competing products, people started to buy them.

It doesn’t matter what company you look at — if you have the only product on the market and then suddenly have competitors, your market share is going to fall.

Let’s look at the car industry as an example. If Mercedes has the only car on the market, anyone that buys a car will own a Mercedes. They will, of course, have all of the market share.

However, when Hyundai releases a car, some people will buy that automobile. Mercedes market share will decrease over time as more manufacturers make cars.

That’s essentially what’s happening to Apple.

That doesn’t mean that Apple is selling fewer iPads. Despite the best efforts of the WSJ and other news organizations to convince you otherwise, Apple’s tablet business is not in trouble.

Looking at Apple’s last quarterly results reported on January 23, 2013, the company sold a record 22.9 million iPads, compared to 15.4 million in the year-ago quarter. That’s a hefty increase in iPad sales year-over-year.

There’s another thing to look at with the IDC report. While people have made a big deal out of Samsung being in second place and gaining on Apple, the largest market share category behind Apple is actually “Other.”

In fact, consider this — the market share from all of the other tablet makers combined is only 34.3 percent, still well behind Apple’s 43.6 percent. They would be Samsung (15.1%), Amazon (11.5%), Asus (5.8%) and Barnes & Noble (1.9%).

The more I look at the stories about Apple in mainstream media, the more I wonder about the news organization’s agenda.

  • Matt

    “Other” seems like complete bullshit.

  • There’s also the whole thing about “shipped” vs “sold” which I think is never really clear. And my web stats show that even though people may be buying those tablets, no-one is actually using them to browse the web. iPad traffic dwarfs iPhone traffic which dwarfs pretty much everything else.

  • Can we really trust these market share numbers when most of Apple’s competitors don’t report tablet sales numbers? The most suspicious part to me is that Samsung has the second highest share, ahead of Amazon’s Kindle and Asus’s Nexus 7. It’s possible that Galaxy Tab is outselling those two globally, but I’ve yet to see one in real life, while I’ve seen many Kindle Fires and Nexus’s. None of Samsung’s tablets has caught on or has any mindshare in US (not even compared to Kindle and Nexus), so where are all these supposed sales coming from? Just look around at what people are using and you can see that iPad still owns the tablet market.

    • Jake_in_Seoul

      Agreed. Why trust IDC numbers (or those of the other “independent analysts”? The press treats these numbers as if they prepared by disinterested statisticians working in the academe or for a government office.

      Rather. they are produced for profit for clients, whom they never have to disclose. They have no legal duty to be accurate and their results can never be given a reality check, since Amazon and Samsung refuse to release unit sales figures. In sum there is no inherent reason to believe IDC’s numbers at all. By treating them as credible you are adding to their own unearned legitimacy and very possibly giving support to their unnamed clients.

      • What’s funniest though is the numbers are used as ammo until it isn’t positive. That’s when they are called to question.

        The biggest example is the usage. That’s the latest bullet in the chamber for blogs such as these as it is the brightest stat out for iOS.

        This begs the question: why trust any numbers that aren’t on level playing fields?

        • The last I had a debate with you, you did put a lot of faith into numbers that weren’t on a level playing field to say something the number were never intended to say. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Be specific, which debate?

            I don’t put faith into stats/numbers. I do debate them though? ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Note though: My previous comment was to spur the conversation, not to dispel the use of any numbers (hence the “begs the question” part).

          • The screen size number you use to affirm that Android phones are mostly high end.

          • Oh yeah, you were the guy on Twitter. ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t base my arguments on that. Dan asked for data, I provided and he checked out of the conversation. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Those are hard stats though, not conjecture (like Samsung tablet sales); legit numbers showing screen density usage. Ultimately that is a direct correlation to the level of device: low-end devices have low-end screens.

          • But those data is limited to devices that have access the Google Play store in the last 7 days. How’s that representative if most of China’s Android phones don’t have access even.

          • No clue but if they are using low-end devices I’m sure they are low density as well. It would be interesting to know those #’s though.

          • The 7 day thing is clearly stated right above and below the table you pointed at. I guess not everyone reads. LOL

          • I guess not ’cause you didn’t read my comment. ๐Ÿ˜€

            I have no issue w/ the 7 day aspect. I have “No clue” on the China bit as I don’t live there so cannot intelligently comment on it.

          • We all do that some times. LOL

    • BC2009

      This x 1000.

      The Nexus 7 is sold in 14 countries for a rock-bottom price.

      The Kindle Fire is sold in less countries, but also for a rock-bottom price.

      Samsung was offering a free Galaxy Tab 2 7.1 with every Samsung big-screen TV purchase at Costco. When you offer your tablet as a freebie to sell your TV you must have too many on hand that you cannot get rid of.

      I simply do not buy NPD’s “estimates” that Samsung sold that many tablets. NPD is consistently offering up the most bullish estimates on Samsung unit sales/shipments.

      Further, if you look at their report it is internally inconsistent and utterly lacking in backing data for their Samsung estimates. CNN Money / Fortune literally tore their report apart, calling NPD estimates “entirely guesswork”. You can read for yourself here:


      • Agreed on Sammie. Hard to know what the #’s are if none are given but as a whole the number can’t be correct since Kindle #’s are private too.

  • Everyone has an agenda, including The Loop editors. You always have to look at motive.

    I think the story is Apple lost marketshare, not Apple is losing sales. It was inevitable, as you note, but the decline as been really fast.

    Oh and LMBO @ copying. That’s laughable for real. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Canucker

      Have you checked out the iPad sales ramp over the 11 quarters it has been available? If you do, you might change your tune on the “really fast decline” given also, that iPad minis were supply constrained through the entire last quarter whereas Samsung tablets have always been buyer constrained (they’ll be throwing a free one in with a full tank of gas soon).

      • LMBO @ full tank of gas. HAHA.

        I didn’t say the sales dropped. The marketshare was > 90% ~2 years ago. To be < 45 now is the epitome of a fast decline. No longer can you say it is an “iPad Market”, as soooo many Apple’rs loved to tout but you don’t hear now.

        • Canucker

          I don’t think you are appreciating the point made by JD in the significance of “decline” in marketshare. For example, RIM sold 500,000 PlayBooks at a massive loss. The Nexus7 is a desperate move to give Android a toehold and undermines the efforts of companies like Samsung who actually care about profit. Add Amazon to the mix and its remarkable that the non-iPad competition isn’t at 90% “share”. Indeed, the non-iPad business is basically broken and may take years to recover.

          Meanwhile here is Horace Dediu’s ramps of iOS products. There is an iPad Market and there is a graveyard of everything else (latest casualty being the Surface). Android has worked well in terms of business for carriers – not in terms of non-carrier driven markets.


          • His point was clear but how do I not appreciate it? He pointed out why it dropped and I merely stated it happened really fast.

            As for your negative look on everything non-iPad, ok.

          • Space Gorilla

            As a computing platform the non-iPad crowd isn’t looking good.

          • lol. Ok. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Space Gorilla

            Well, if you don’t agree then explain to me how Android is kicking ass as a computing platform and ecosystem with high use and engagement. Android certainly has phone market share, but that is not the same thing as a robust computing platform.

          • Define “robust computing platform” for me and I’ll provide a response (may be a bit, got code to write).

          • Space Gorilla

            I did already. The simple definition is that use of the computing ecosystem should be high. That’s it. And that has all sorts of network effects. It doesn’t matter if a platform can technically be a computing platform if the users don’t use it in that way. I could build another Facebook so technically it would be a social network, but if very few people use it is it really a social network?

          • Yes, it is a social network by the essence of what it does and is capable of doing. Scale would not turn it into a social network overnight…your code did that from jump.

            So because Android people don’t use their devices for web like iOS people, Android is not a robust computing platform?

            I really thought you’d have something more than that. We’re of a completely different mindset so let’s agree to disagree and move on. Thanks.

          • Space Gorilla

            Not sure why you think ‘use of the computing ecosystem’ equals ‘use their devices for web’. I assumed I didn’t have to write you a bullet list of activities that would be included in a computing ecosystem. You did say you write code after all.

          • You didn’t. I asked you for a definition of a robust computing system and you responded w/ a social network reference and usage being how you define a computing system. Read your comment again then read mine response.

            And yes…I’m in love w/ code. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Space Gorilla

            Use is a good way to define a system. How a thing is used in the real world informs how we define it. If I buy a fridge, flip it on its side, and use it as a bath tub, is it a fridge or is it a bath tub?

          • It is a fridge you’re using as a bath tub. A razor used to open boxes is not a box cutter, a basketball used as a soccer ball is not a soccer ball, a _____ used as a __________ is not a __________.

            Usage does not determine what something is…just how it is being used.

          • Space Gorilla

            Exactly. You just made my point for me.

          • L..M..B..O!!!!

            Have a good one. ๐Ÿ˜€

          • Space Gorilla

            Bailing out are we? Well, just to complete the analogy, as you said, if I buy a fridge and use it as a bath tub then it “is a fridge you’re using as a bath tub”, those are your words. Let’s examine that. It’s a fridge (Android computing device) that I’m using as a bath tub (feature phone or other non-computing tasks). As a bath tub I fill the fridge with water, I take a bath, I drain it, that’s it. But had I been using it as a fridge I would be involved in a more complex set of actions, buying groceries that are stored in my fridge, buying accessories to organize my fridge, making ice cubes, chilling drinks, and so on. There are more network effects if I use it as a fridge. When we look at usage data we can see that Android is a fridge that is being used as a bath tub. Use matters. You’re right that use doesn’t determine what a thing is but it does inform how we define the thing or the system. As I said, you’ve proven my point for me.

            I expect Android will continue to grow and mature, but over the next couple years a billion users on Android will not be as powerful as a billion users on iOS, because the two platforms (however equal they may be technically) are being used differently.

          • You didn’t make your point. Your point was Android is not a robust computing platform because of usage. That specific point was debunked, as you agree.

            My point is, with usage stats you can’t outright determine how someone is using. Take your fridge. If you could track usage and see Samsung fridges aren’t in use as much as Brand X, can you safely say that is because they are being used as tubs? No, you cannot. That point is irrefutable.

            As far as being “powerful”, ok. I guess that matters. :-/ Enjoy your powerful army. lol.

          • Space Gorilla

            It’s clear that you’re a right fighter who lives for the last word. You’ll just have to watch things play out over the next few years, what I am saying will become obvious. You’re missing the subtle difference between what a thing is and how a thing is used.

          • No, I give people the respect they deserve and respond to them when I’m spoken too. I don’t have to have the last word.

        • Space Gorilla

          When we look at usage data it does seem clear that as a computing device it still is an iPad market. Competing tablets that aren’t used as computing devices don’t add much value or growth to a competing platform/ecosystem.

  • Michael Brian Bentley

    The news media may be populated by people who don’t understand the differences between market share, size of customer base, margin, profit, and how they fit into each other. They all seem smitten by Microsoft’s long-term desktop operating system dominance, perhaps thinking that that sort of thing is normal in this business. After all, IBM totally dominated computing for a few days before Microsoft Windows 3.1X (how many were alive when that was the case?) Do they think Tesla is a loser because more electric car mfrs are entering the market?

  • Most tech writers show even less comprehension of events than sports writers. That’s sad but true.

  • GFYantiapplezealots

    Marketshare does not equal sales. People who only want to spend $200 and would otherwise not buy an iPad, are buying kindles and other cheap tablets. This brings Apples marketshare down, but they wouldn’t have bought an iPad otherwise because of the price.

    And the media LOVES reporting negative Apple stories because it attracts anti-Apple zealots, like John Bland, like no other, and the more clicks they get, the more money they get.

    • LMBO. I’m the farthest from anti-Apple dude. As usual, a troll comes out and I have to state my tech choices: iMac (which I’m typing on now), 3 MacBook Pros (15″ Retina, 15″ 2010, 17″ 2007; model years may be off), iPad mini and 10″ + wife’s 10″ iPad.

      I’m a huge Apple supporter. Just because I’m not blinded by their products, like other things, and defend false statements spewed here/elsewhere doesn’t make me an anti-Apple zealot. I just like the discussion/conversation.

      FYI: I defend Apple as much as I defend Google/Android. Just because you only see me here means you get one fraction of my social discussion. Enjoy life. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • To be fair, you do say some strange things from time to time (like your blog post trying to pull a claim chowder on those saying Eric Schmidt was wrong about Google TV being on most TVs by last summer), but most of the time you’re perfectly reasonable and add something unique to the conversation. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • That one didn’t quite pan out but the underlying point was correct: Schmidt spoke because he knew what vendors were doing. Their announcement proved correct BUT…it didn’t happen like he said. I’ll def’ take a 50% hit on that one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          We all miss some things. It is all about opinions but I thoroughly enjoy community discussion. Blind faith…I don’t get, aside from biblical. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Blind faith is blind faith regardless of where the faith lies.

          • True but I get religious blind faith, in the sense of faith being belief in something not seen. Blind faith in a company, product, etc is beside me. That’s what I don’t get.

            People blindly follow companies and defend them to the core, making excuses for faults/mistakes, etc and it only closes their mind, IMHO. The same can be said for religion too (you should learn as much as possible from all sources).

          • If you get religious blind faith, you should get blind faith in companies. Think of how many times you insist on inspecting the kitchen of a restaurant before eating there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Though I’m not implying anything about your faith. Just pointing out that we do need to have faith is some things. If not we will be eternally busy people.

          • Ah, true. Good point. ๐Ÿ™‚

            It is more of the essence of the blind faith. Do you get something out of it? Religiously you do: peace.

          • There are many fringe cases that blind faith in religion is a bad thing but let’s not get into that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Agreed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • GTWilson

    The comment thread evangelism and paid for studies are meaningless. The real world doesn’t pay attention to any of it.

    People will buy Apple if they can afford it, Android if they can’t or one from the “other” column if it is on sale.

    • Canucker

      Methinks at least a portion of “other” sales are due to very well-meaning but technically illiterate grandparents.

      • GTWilson

        Grandparents are the bedrock of the knock-off industry. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • tz

    “That doesnโ€™t mean that Apple is selling fewer iPads. Despite the best efforts of the WSJ and other news organizations to convince you otherwise, Appleโ€™s tablet business is not in trouble. . . . . . . “

    And why would they want to to do this?

  • You are one paranoid dude, Jim. Yes, there’s a conspiracy in the mainstream media to discredit Apple. Totally.

    Sorry, excuse me one second…


    Coming from the guy with the biggest pro-Apple, anti-everyone-else agenda in the blogosphere, that’s pretty funny.

    • Discrediting Apple attracts a large crowd of “Fandroids” who add their own comments like “Ha, finally crApple goes to hell!” and a smaller crowd of Apple fans who try to correct at least to gravest mistakes in the “Fandroids” arguments (Oh, i remember how people in 2010 didn’t knew that you could use ANY MP3 on an iPhone, because they believed all the anti-apple-flaming that said you could only use Apple-stuff (aka iTunes) on it).

      Attracting large crowds leads to higher ad revenue.

      So writing about Apple, especially bad things about Apple -> revenue!

      • I can neither confirm nor deny the allegation you’ve made, but I’m not about to engage in wild speculation to bolster some paranoid delusion, either.

        There could be any number of reasons why the mainstream media get things like this wrong – it’s not as if they are infallible. The media gets reports on a wide range of topics wrong all the time. And I am all for holding them accountable for that, believe me. I am not, however, for imagining and promoting the fantasy of nefarious agendas to try and explain why those mistakes take place, simply because they make mistakes reporting on my favourite pet company.

        Given Jim’s own obvious bent towards promoting Apple at every turn while finding even the most flimsy excuses for discrediting their competition and their critics, I find his concerns about media agendas laughable.

        • Space Gorilla

          I think there’s a fairly simple explanation. The tech industry doesn’t like Apple. Nerds don’t like Apple. Who makes up a large portion of tech journalists, writers, bloggers? Nerds. Apple’s approach wasn’t supposed to work. Computing devices as simple consumer-facing appliances wasn’t suppose to win. But Apple’s approach has won, decisively. This has led to a lot of anti-Apple bias floating around the tech world. There’s always been anti-Apple bias though, I’ve seen it since 1984 when I bought the first Mac. Back then the cry was “Graphical user interfaces are for babies!” Apple won that battle too. So to sum up, the nerds are angry at Apple for winning.

          • And Apple fanatics are angry at everyone for doubting or opposing them, past, present and future.

            It’s easy to make these sorts of connections, but it’s another thing altogether to allow them to fuel one’s personal paranoid fantasies.

          • Space Gorilla

            Most Apple customers are normal people who buy products that work well and deliver value. But the spin in the tech world is that Apple’s success is a fluke, that it won’t last, that it’s just marketing, that it’s only the Apple faithful fueling the success, the is just a fad, Apple sued its way to success, Apple stole all of its ideas, and so on. That’s a clear bias. The nerds want to explain Apple’s success in a way that fits their world view, and in that world view Apple can’t have earned its success by making good products that people actually get value from. Apple’s entire approach to tech is wrong, they can’t be winning. Apple products are useless toys with poor specs, how can people be buying this crap? It must be the Jobs reality-distortion field, if only Apple customers would wake up, and so on and so forth.

            I think you underestimate how difficult it is for many in the tech world to admit that Apple’s success is real.

          • Just so we’re clear, you realize this discussion is about the mainstream media, right? Because while I’ve encountered the kinds of extreme bias you describe in the blogosphere and from friends and acquaintances who have pledged their allegiance to one brand or another, when it comes to the mainstream media – from newspapers to TV and the radio – I see and hear praise for Apple all the time.

          • Space Gorilla

            Yes, I’m explaining where I think the media bias comes from, the roots of it. We must live in two different worlds. For every positive Apple story I see there are ten negative stories. This has been happening since the 80s.

  • alextheukrainian

    They are’t even market share. They are SHIPPED units.

  • Will

    “The more I look at the stories about Apple in mainstream media, the more I wonder about the news organizationโ€™s agenda.”

    I agree with this. I find it very confusing how many anti-Apple articles, or at least backhanded Apple articles there are lately that are making big stretches. My thoughts for a while now is that because Apple is pretty much a lone dog operating almost completely outside of the conventional system (yet dominating practically every market its sinks its teeth into) they’ve got a lot of far reaching enemies in the business world who’re calling in favours where they can.

    Then again, this site seems to be quite anti-Google often so swings and roundabouts I guess.

  • BGC

    Jim, these numbers come out of quasi-thin air.

    First of all, only Apple reports hard sales numbers. The others either report no numbers at all or shipped numbers. Now I could also produce 50 million tablets and then ship them to retailers to sit there. Shipped is not sold, not sold means no real marketshare.

    As far as Amazon is concerned – no one knows anything about their Kindle numbers. I’m sure they sell plenty, but no one knows how little or large that plenty number is, as it is with so many things Amazon.

    The much more foretelling number is – usage statistics.

    We all got to admit that if a tablet get’s sold, people supposedly use it. How comes web usage does not come from all those 50+% estimated marketshare? Do only iOS user browse the web and all others just use apps?

    Probably not. But units that are just shipped don’t get used because they’re not sold to real people.

    Same holds true for Android phones with a slight variance.

    I make the thesis that you don’t buy an iPhone by accident. You to your TelCo or other retailer, point to the iPhone and say “I want”, pay, go home and use it for what it’s worth, that’s why you got it in the first place.

    When you go to your TelCo today and don’t care about any feature, you’ll most likely go home with a cheap Android phone and use it for phone calls and texting, eventually you’ll receive an email. The death of the feature phone is the rise of the Android phone. I call this an accidental purchase. This does not happen with the iPhone, this does not happen with the top of the line Android phones either.

    Therefore the statistics are heavily skewed by using false bases. You might as well say Apple has 0% market share of Keyboard phones, so they’re doomed.

    Catchy headlines make the web and sell newspapers. thoughtful analysis and balanced reporting only sells marginally compared to attention seeking headlines in a world where every unemployed person out there calls him/herself independent blogger trying to catch the most eyeballs.

    I do like your site a lot, I would like it even more if you’d shed more light on the aforementioned statistics issues on the front page because those issues are the real cause of the whole “upsetness” regarding Apples market share “loss” and the self boasting of Googles market share “gain”.

    Apple management unfortunately has shown weakness lately to communicate the facts in a way they stand out enough to be understood.

  • Michael Steele

    No clue but if they are using low-end devices I’m sure they are low density as well. It would be interesting to know those #’s though.