Android fuels strong tablet growth in 2013
Android becomes number-one tablet operating system, taking 61.9% market share.
According to the latest figures from Gartner, worldwide tablet sales to end users reached 195.4 million units in 2013, a 68% increase over 2012.
The bulk of 2013's tablet growth was fuelled by the low-end, smaller-screen tablet market, mostly running on Google's Android software. Android become the number-one tablet operating system, taking 61.9% market share.
Apple's market share (with the iPad) declined to 36% in 2013, despite sales of iOS tablets growing in the fourth quarter of 2013.
"In 2013, tablets became a mainstream phenomenon, with a vast choice of Android-based tablets being within the budget of mainstream consumers while still offering adequate specifications," said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.
"As the Android tablet market becomes highly commoditised, in 2014, it will be critical for vendors to focus on device experience and meaningful technology and ecosystem value - beyond just hardware and cost - to ensure brand loyalty and improved margins."
Emerging markets played a huge role in the overall growth of low-cost tablets, with Gartner reporting a 145% growth in tablet sales in emerging markets. Tablet sales growth was just 31% in mature markets.
Gartner said that Apple's iOS dropped by 16.8 percentage points in 2013, as the quality of low-cost tablets improved. That said, the research house was quick to point out that Apple's tablets remain strong at the higher end of the market.
"Apple's approach will continue to force vendors to compete with full ecosystem offerings, even in the smaller-screen market as the iPad mini sees a greater share", Cozza said.
Microsoft, meanwhile, saw a slight increase in the number of tablets sold, but its overall market share remained low, Gartner reported. The vendor sold just over four million tablets in 2013, commanding a 2.1% market share - ranking Windows 8 as the third most-popular tablet operating system, albeit by a large margin. Less than 0.1% of the tablet market was taken by other players, Gartner said.