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Android tablets slip and fall in Q1. Apple's iPad says ha-ha!

According to research firm IDC, Android-based devices see a "steep" decline in quarterly shipments, but Apple's iPad is riding high.

Kindle Fire market share has tailed off considerably, according to IDC.
Kindle Fire market share has tailed off considerably, according to IDC. Amazon

The tablet market showed some weakness during the first quarter, but Apple's iPad remained strong, according to new research from IDC.

During the first quarter of 2012, total worldwide tablet shipments hit 17.4 million, 1.2 million units less than the research firm had anticipated. And although that figure is down 38.4 percent compared to the busy holiday shopping season, it was up 120 percent over the 7.9 million tablets that shipped during the first quarter of 2011.

The main issue last quarter was weaker-than-expected performance of Android-based tablets. IDC did not provide exact Android tablet shipments for the quarter, since its figures are preliminary. Considering 11.8 million iPads were sold during the first quarter, however, and since RIM's PlayBook shipments were not substantial from a market-wide perspective, Android-based devices tallied several million unit shipments during the period.

"Although total Android shipments were down sharply in [the first quarter], companies such as Samsung and Lenovo are beginning to gain traction in the market with their latest generation of Android products," IDC wrote in a statement today. "IDC expects the segment to rebound quickly as other vendors introduce new products in the second quarter and beyond."

Still, it's hard to see which Android vendor will be able to worry Apple. According to IDC, Apple's market share last quarter jumped from 54.7 percent in the fourth quarter to 68 percent last quarter. Amazon's Kindle Fire, which secured 16.8 percent market share in the fourth quarter, could only muster a 4 percent slice of the market during the first three months of 2012. Samsung had the highest market share in the Android ecosystem, followed by Amazon and Lenovo.

"Apple reasserted its dominance in the market this quarter, driving huge shipment totals at a time when all but a few Android vendors saw their numbers drop precipitously after posting big gains during the holiday buying season," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices at IDC. "Apple's move to position the iPad as an all-purpose tablet, instead of just a content consumption device, is resonating with consumers as well as educational and commercial buyers. And its decision to keep a lower-priced iPad 2 in the market after it launched the new iPad in March seems to be paying off as well."

Even with a sluggish first quarter, it's hard not to be bullish on the tablet market. NPD DisplaySearch reported today that tablet shipments are set to explode in the coming years, reaching 184.2 million units next year, and jumping to 424.9 million by 2017.

"The folks in Cupertino (Apple) keep talking about how tablets will exceed notebook shipments," DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim said today in a statement. "Well, we're starting to see that as well."