The adoption of media tablets by more new users continued across the globe, but some product vendors were unable to benefit from the growing uptake of this very popular device. Worldwide shipments of tablets grew to 47.6 million units in the third quarter of 2013 (3Q13) according to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC).
While slightly below their prior forecast, the unit volume still represents 7.0 percent growth over the previous quarter and 36.7 percent growth compared to the third quarter of 2012.
Google Android-based products once again drove much of the shipment growth in the global market as Apple iOS growth stalled and Microsoft Windows tablets continued to struggle to win over consumers.
With no new Apple iPad product launches in the second or third quarter to drive volume, the company experienced a quarter-over-quarter decline in shipments from 14.6 million in 2Q13 to 14.1 million in 3Q13.
Year over year, iPad shipments grew less than one percent. Apple's slowing growth -- caused in part by its decision in late 2012 to move its product launches from earlier in the year to the fourth quarter -- has caused the company's tablet market share to slip to 29.6 percent, its lowest share to date.
However, with the new iPad Air shipping November 1st and the refreshed iPad mini with Retina scheduled to roll out later in November, IDC expects Apple to enjoy robust shipment growth during the fourth quarter.
"With two 7.9-inch models starting at $299 and $399, and two 9.7-inch models starting at $399 and $499, Apple is taking steps to appeal to multiple segments," said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst at IDC.
While some undoubtedly hoped for more aggressive pricing from Apple, the current prices clearly reflect Apple's ongoing strategy to maintain its premium status -- even if it means losing market share.
Moreover, Apple wasn't the only one to increase the price of its small-sized tablet during this product cycle: Both Google and Amazon increased the price of their newest 7-inch tablets from $199 to $229 to cover the higher costs associated with high resolution screens and better processors.
Samsung once again secured the second position with shipments of about 9.7 million units. The company, which owes a measure of its tablet success to its ability to bundle them with other successful Samsung products, such as smartphones and televisions, grabbed 20.4 percent of the worldwide market.
ASUS, which makes the Nexus 7 for Google, shipped about 3.5 million total units during the quarter for a third place finish and 7.4 percent market share. Lenovo moved into the number four tablet spot with shipments of 2.3 million units and a 4.8 percent share. Acer rounded out the top five with 1.2 million units shipped and a 2.5 percent share.
Notably, vendors from outside the top five were responsible for over one third of the shipments in 3Q13. IDC tracks dozens of tablet vendors, and this quarter "Others" represents a combination of major vendors (such as Amazon, Microsoft, HP, and Dell) and lesser-known, so-called white box vendors that typically sell ultra-low cost Android devices.
White box tablet shipments continue to constitute a fairly large percentage of the Android devices shipped into the market. These low cost Android-based products make tablets available to a wider market of consumers around the globe -- particularly in the emerging markets.