The preliminary Q3 2012 tablet sales report from market research firm IDC found that global tablet shipments totaled 27.8 million units in the third quarter of this year, that's 49.5 percent more than in Q3 2012 and 6.7 percent over Q2 2012.
Compared to last year, there seem to be two major trends. The first one is that Apple is losing its hold over the tablet market, the company is still the largest tablet maker but saw its marketshare decline from 59.7 percent in Q3 2011 to 50.4 percent in Q3 2012.
The second trend is a consolidation of marketshare, last year the "others" category accounted for 28.9 percent, while this year all the small players combined accounted for just 12.2 percent of the market. Samsung saw the biggest growth in shipments, the South Korean firm saw its sales rise by 325.0 percent and managed to grab 18.4 percent of the market, up from 6.5 percent in Q3 2011. Amazon grabbed the third spot with 9.0 percent, and ASUS follows with 8.6 percent. The fifth largest tablet maker is Lenovo, but the Chinese firm holds a marketshare of a mere 1.4 percent.
"After a very strong second quarter, Apple saw growth slow as both consumer and commercial (including education) shipments declined, and rumors of a forthcoming iPad mini began to heat up," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Tablets at IDC. "We believe a sizeable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad mini. Now that the new mini, and a fourth-generation full-sized iPad, are both shipping we expect Apple to have a very good quarter. However, we believe the mini's relatively high $329 starting price leaves plenty of room for Android vendors to build upon the success they achieved in the third quarter."
Apple's slowdown put a sizeable dent in the company's commanding worldwide market tablet share, which slipped from 65.5% in 2Q12 to 50.4% in 3Q12. The remaining top five tablet vendors all gained share during the quarter as a result. Most notable was the impressive quarter turned out by Samsung—driven by its Galaxy Tab and Note 10.1. Samsung shipped 5.1 million tablets worldwide in 3Q12, up 115.0% from 2Q12; that's an increase of 325.0% from 3Q11, when it shipped 1.2 million tablets.
The top 5 was rounded out by Amazon, ASUS, and Lenovo; with all three vendors experiencing sequential growth over 2Q12 while Lenovo and ASUS also saw solid year-over-year growth. Amazon, which did not have product in 3Q11, announced new 7-inch and 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD tablets late in the quarter, and began shipping the new 7-inch HD version (in addition to a refreshed version of the original 7-inch Fire) in mid-September. This helped grow its worldwide market share from 4.8% in 2Q12 to 9.0% in 3Q12, despite only shipping in the U.S. (the company began shipping into five additional countries in 4Q12). ASUS' share growth was backed by strong shipments of its Google-branded Nexus 7 device; Lenovo's gains were driven by strong shipments in China.
"Samsung took advantage of an opportunity in the second quarter," said Ryan Reith, program manager, IDC's Mobile Device Trackers. "The company offers a wide range of tablet offerings across multiple screen sizes and colors, and that clearly resonated with more buyers this quarter. Its growth to 18.4% of worldwide market share during the quarter represents the first time a competitor has attained this level of share since the original launch of the iPad."
"Competitors are turning up the pressure on market leader Apple," Reith added. "With the recent introduction of a number of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, consumers now have a third viable tablet platform from which to choose. However, price points are critical in tablets, and Microsoft and its partners will have a tough time winning a share of consumer wallet with price points starting at $500."
Biggest tablet vendors, Third Quarter 2012
(Preliminary) (Units Shipments are in millions)