For a consumer product category that didn’t even really exist a few years ago, tablets sales are pretty darn phenomenal. The latest boost in shipments comes courtesy of the end of year holiday boom — so if you were one of the people who spent Christmas day messing around with your new iPad or Tab, you were holding one of the 52.5-million tablets sold in the last three months of 2012.
According to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC), which tracks shipments from over 100 countries worldwide, close to 53-million tablets were sold in Q4 last year — a dramatic 75.3% increase over the estimated 29.9-million tablets that were bought in the same period in 2011. The stats also show the spike end-of-year sales bring to manufacturers: the fourth quarter sales represented a 74% increase over those of the period from July to August. Holiday sales were always going to be big for gadget manufacturers though: a record 1.2-billion apps were downloaded in the week of Christmas 2012, as over 20-million new devices were activated and new owners hit their respective app stores.
So, what tablets were flying off the shelves? Predictably, Apple led the race: IDC estimates suggest 22.9 million iPads (Minis included) were sold in Q4, up 48.1% over the same period last year. But its dominance is slipping slowly, as competing products from Samsung and Microsoft chip off its lead: it lost 2.8% of total tablet marketshare from Q3 to Q4. With 263% year on year growth, Samsung snapped up second place, shipping almost 8-million Android and Windows 8 tablets in the last three months to hold on to 15.1% of total sales. Amazon took third place with its Kindle Fire, selling an estimated 6-million tablets to secure 11.5% of the market.
Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Asus’ offerings (including the Nexus 7) and Microsoft’s Surface made up the rest of the leading manufacturers. Barnes and Noble shipped a million Nooks in the quarter, while 3.1-million Asus tablets hit consumers’ hands and around 900 000 units of Microsoft’s much-hyped laptop/tablet hybrid were sold.