Tablets and Smartphones: State of the Market


There’s no doubt tablets and smartphones are two of the hottest categories of consumer electronics. These popular and handy gadgets are showing healthy sales growth, even as some other segments of the consumer electronics market face challenges. But how does the outlook for tablets and smartphones really break down on close examination?

If we’re talking about tablets, research shows Android-powered devices are gaining ground, though Apple’s iPad still holds the top spot. Strategy Analytics,, says Android devices made up a record 39% of the tablets shipped in the fourth quarter of 2011. This compares to 29% marketshare just one year earlier in the fourth quarter of 2010. For Q4 2011, Apple devices dominated with 58% of the units shipped.

So while the iPad may be ahead of the pack, Android is definitely nipping at its heels.

Overall, 27 million tablets were shipped in Q4 2011, which is a 150% increase from one year earlier, says Strategy Analytics.

Tablets are still far behind smartphones in total number of units shipped. For Q4 2011, 155 million smartphones were shipped, says Strategy Analytics. When breaking down the numbers, a similar story emerges regarding who’s on top.

Apple had 23.9% of the market for Q4, squeaking past Samsung, which had 23.5%. However, if you look at the numbers for the entire year of 2011, Strategy Analytics says Samsung still leads with 19.9% of unit shipments compared to Apple’s 19.0%.

While other analysts’ estimates may differ slightly, the overall picture is the same, showing that Apple and its closest Android smartphone competitors are engaged in an ongoing struggle for the winning position. It seems the market definitely has room for both platforms going forward.

“With global smartphone shipments nearing half a billion units in 2011, Samsung is now well positioned alongside Apple in a two-horse race at the forefront of one of the world’s largest and most valuable consumer electronics markets,” says Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

According to research firm iGR,, the popularity of Android for smartphones is increasing. The analyst says that currently, 47% of U.S. smartphone users have an Android device, and 24% use iPhones. Or course, this number for Android includes all the various manufacturers, while Apple is the only manufacturer of its iOS devices.

Consumers also seem to be choosing Android based on its reputation. iGR says 45% of Android users research the OS prior to purchase, and then specifically chose an Android model.

Both smartphones and tablets show no signs of decreasing in consumer interest, and with two healthy platform options available, buyers will have their work cut out for them making a decision.

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