According to the latest market study by ABI Research, the media tablet market shipped 18.2 million devices in the first quarter (1Q) 2012, which represents a 185 percent YoY gain and a -33 percent sequential loss in shipments.
Apple's 11.8 million iPad shipments were spurred by the launch of a third-generation lineup and price reduction on iPad 2 models, while Samsung's 1.1 million shipments returned the vendor to the number two spot after Amazon's Kindle Fire shipments declined entering 2012.
"A pattern similar to smartphones is also occurring in tablets," said Jeff Orr, group director, consumer research at ABI Research.
Orr says that Apple and Samsung have demonstrated staying power -- while other tablet vendors ebb and flow like the tide.
Only two leading branded tablet OEMs – RIM (233 percent) and Lenovo (107 percent) – bucked the downward first quarter shipment trends, while Taiwan’s ASUS remained flat sequentially from 4Q 2011.
Several vendors -- including Dell, HP, and LG -- are currently retooling tablet portfolios for mid-year launches of Google Android 4.0 along with the Microsoft Windows 8 slates debuting later in 2012.
Apple continued to lead the market with nearly 65 percent of worldwide units and surpassed 67 million cumulative shipments in its first eight quarters of availability.
The Apple iPad can't claim the highest mobile broadband (3G/4G) attach rate for media tablets, though Apple retains its title of shipping the most 3G-enabled tablets by outpacing the number two competitor by a factor of eight.
That being said, most owners of media tablets seem to prefer wireless connectivity that's consistent and not subject to unpredictable usage-based mobile service costs.
Moreover, mobile network operators continue to send warnings to consumers that their networks can't support the traffic and therefore network access fees will rise.
In fact, mobile service providers appear to have convinced most customers to avoid their 3G/4G data service offerings -- the vast majority of iPad buyers continue to be satisfied with unlimited free Wi-Fi wireless coverage.
The leading "Wi-Fi only" model shipments, and the ongoing challenges mobile network operators face in convincing iPad owners to even try the mobile broadband connectivity once, are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.