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Small Android tablets gain as Apple 'buzz' fades

Small tablets are making big gains, while Apple is beginning to plateau, says market researcher Canalys.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read
The 7-inch Nexus 7: small tablets are in.
The 7-inch Nexus 7: small tablets are in. Google

Samsung, Amazon, and other tablet makers gained market share in the second quarter as those vendors cut into Apple's dominant position.

While Apple still holds about 43 percent of the worldwide tablet market -- by far the single largest percentage -- Samsung, Amazon, Lenovo, Acer, and others saw hefty year-to-year gains in shipments during the second quarter, ranging from 228 percent (Acer) to 317 percent (Lenovo), according to a research note released Thursday by Canalys.

Overall Android shipments topped Apple.

The market researcher estimated that 68 percent of tablets shipped in the second quarter had a screen size smaller than 9 inches.

Apple's tablet shipments were down 14 percent year-to-year, suggesting that Apple's heyday -- when it was practically the only tablet game in town -- is over.

"Apple's decline in shipments and share has been partly attributed to its aging portfolio," Canalys said.

"When Apple does decide to refresh its iPad...it will not experience the buzz of previous launches," Canalys Analyst James Wang said in a statement.

The reason? Tablets are mainstream products now and hardware innovation doesn't wow consumers like it used to, according to Canalys. Moreover, branded Android tablets -- like the just-released second-generation Nexus 7 that starts at $230 -- are inexpensive, luring buyers to that platform.

Samsung, which saw shipments jump 295 percent, had the second largest share with 22 percent on the back of 7.4 million units shipped in the quarter.

Canalys had this to say about Apple versus Android apps:

Despite its 53% share, Android still lags far behind iOS in the availability of fully-optimized tablet apps, and tablet app downloads from the Apple App Store dwarf those from Google Play.

But Android is expected to continue to close the ecosystem lead iOS has in tablets and increase share in coming quarters. 'Developers can and will quickly switch their priorities as different opportunities evolve and improve,' said Canalys Senior Analyst Tim Shepherd. '

And what about Apple profitability versus the rest of the pack? "While it is true that Apple is losing its stranglehold on the tablet market in terms of volume, it will remain its most profitable vendor for years to come," Canalys added.

Updated on August 2 at 12:05 a.m. PDT: corrects Samsung shipment numbers.