Apple got another head start, but Android is again hot on its tail. It started, of course, in 2007, when Apple released the first iPhone. There was no Google Android right then, and it took over two years before the platform really started to gain traction. Four years later, Android is running pretty much neck and neck with the iPhone. The time for Android tablets to catch the iPhone won’t be as long. Already it’s making progress, and despite a new iPad coming in the next few months, Android has plenty of momentum behind it. The first positive sign came in the fourth quarter. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, playing the part of Android’s flagship tablet, dropped at the four major wireless carriers. Its pricing scheme was a bit different than the iPad’s, but that didn’t stop consumers from snapping it up. A recent report pegs Galaxy Tab sales at around 2 million already. That’s quite a ways behind the 14.8 million iPads sold, but Android is closing the gap. According to a Strategy Analytics report, Android tablet shipments went from 2.3 percent market share in the third quarter to 22 percent in the fourth quarter. That directly affected Apple, which sat pretty at 95 percent in the third quarter before dipping to 75 percent in the fourth quarter. Just how long, then, does Android have before it can equal Apple in tablet market share? Neil Mawston, director at Stategy Analytics, offers some insights: “Apple’s volumes will continue to go up, but market share will inevitably go down. Even at $500 retail, based on some of the research we’ve done, that’s probably two or three times more than what most mass market consumers are expecting to pay.” Again, the subsidized model does mitigate the high cost of tablets, and I do think that, despite the dubious nature of a two-year data contract, consumers are still very attracted to the lower up-front cost and will ignore the long-term consequences. “If you were to ask me in two years time, will Apple have less than 50 percent of the global tablet market, I think that’s a certainty.” Of course, the remaining tablets won’t all be Android. But I’d expect enough of them to run the OS, especially after Honeycomb, that they’ll surpass Apple in market share. Two years does sound like a long time, but remember that Apple’s not just going to let Android run it over. Their new iPad will look newer and shinier than a number of the Android tablets out there. But in time, as we see dozens and dozens of Android tablets to the singular iPad, we’ll see the market share gap close. While I’m no analyst, I can see that happening within 12 months. Still, Android tablets aren’t perfect. I think that we’ll see a greater satisfaction rate once Honeycomb drops. But for now, the Galaxy Tab is not exactly a model for customer happiness. A recent report suggests that Galaxy Tab return rates were 16 percent, which is far higher than normal. Even Google itself admits that the current tablet OS isn’t optimized for the medium, and that Honeycomb will bring a better experience. They’d better hope that’s the case. Because if people keep returning Android tablets at this rate, you can pretty much forget the preceding paragraphs.
Android tablets playing catchup quickly
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