Home Home Tech iPads dominate as Android tablet vendors look to Windows for sales success

iPads dominate as Android tablet vendors look to Windows for sales success

iPad totally dominates the Australian tablet market share at 49%, smashing Android at 29% and Windows at 22%, with Windows 2-in-1s, AR and SIM card slots the great Windows sales hope.

With iPads having offered SIM-card mobile connectivity and keyboard options to create 2-in-1s since day one, it's weird to read that mobile connectivity via SIM card slots and 2-in-1 options are the great hope that Windows tablets might one day outsell not just Android tablets, but iPads, too.

Still, reality is stranger than fiction, so only genuinely astounding new developments or revelations surprise us any more these days.

Then there's augmented reality, which was harder for the 2010 iPad as it didn't have a camera, but night sky apps that worked using GPS positioning (on 3G models) to decipher the night sky may well have qualified.

In any case, 2010 was a long time ago, in the galaxy of market share far, far away from the reality that is late 2017, with top analysts Telsyte always giving a terrific treatise on the travails and travels of Android and Windows tablets compared to dominant iPads – even though iPad sales dipped until the lowest-cost 2017 iPad launched in March this year.

And even then, iPad sales were still five times greater than Mac sales, so when you dip off such an astounding high, as iPad sales soared to originally, you can certainly coast for a long time without needing to put pedal to the metal, and still Android and Windows tablet sales are forced to combine their market share to, together, beat iPad – and then, only just.

It's sad, but it's life in the world of non-iOS device fighting for relevance. I mean, Telsyte says it itself when it notes from its new "The Telsyte Australian Tablet Computer Market Study 2017-2021" that "tablet sales cooled off during the first half of 2017 with 1.4 million units sold, down 10% from a year ago".

The study found the decline was "mainly due to easing demand for Android-based tablets, but also waning Android support from manufacturers who have given greater focus to Microsoft Windows 10-based touchscreen devices".

Now, let me be absolutely clear, I think the Telsyte guys are excellent analysts and researchers, with quality research definitely worth buying, so my own analysis of Telsyte's media release is the truth as I see it, and you'll see I dovetail my thoughts with Telsyte's extremely astute observations.

This leads me to Android, once the great hope to destroy Apple's then still newly rising star — Motorola Xoom was going to "overtake soon" if you remember — and with Google launching its new Pixel 2 and 2 XL smartphones 4 October, and 5 October at 3am for us in Australia, one wonders whether Google will even bother to release an Android tablet of its own. Google, for goodness sakes.

If it turns out that Google doesn't even bother to release an Android tablet this year, then why the heck should anyone else?

After all, with Telsyte toting the sales totaliser tables wherein "Android tablet sales declined by 29% compared to the first half of 2016, with many manufactures holding back the release of new Android tablets", it comes as no surprise to read the rest of Telsyte's sentence which is "including Google which has not released a new Nexus or Pixel tablet in over 12 months".

Yes, perhaps we'll see a new Google Pixel Chromebook/tablet/2-in-1 of some kind this year, if not at the aforementioned Pixel 2 launch event, but does Apple ever skip a year when launching new tablets? Never! In some years, it launches two, or even three new iPads – this year is yet another example.

When it comes to actual tablet sales, Telsyte tells the tantalising truth that "Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Lenovo remain the top four tablet manufacturers (by sales) in 1H 2017, and accounted for over 80% of total units sold" but then delivers the Android and Windows death-blow by stating that "almost half of all tablets sold in Australia are Apple iPads".

Then we get to mobile connectivity, which in plain English is known as a SIM card slot, something that has been a staple of the iPad range since day one, which even allowed Apple to have lower entry-level devices with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-only connectivity, eschewing SIM card slots for those that decidedly deemed they didn't need them.

Telsyte's terrifically thaumaturgic research shows that "more Australian consumers are opting for 4G/LTE capable tablets", and somewhat pries into the eyes of the obvious by stating "the trend will likely continue with the availability of shared data plans, larger mobile data caps and the anticipated arrival of eSIMs in the near future".

Of course, Telsyte knows eSIMs have already arrived – I have one in the Apple Watch I'm wearing on my wrist, but Telsyte no doubt harkens to the eSIM's arrival in tablets, as opposed to that of smartwatches, which, if you strain your brain and use your imagination, could well be tiny square-shaped tablets you strap to your rightful (or fancifully-imagined 'leftful') wrist.

And, while iPads have effectively been 2-in-1s from the start, thanks to a plethora of keyboard cases, and with 2-in-1s actually having emerged years before during the original Windows Tablet PC era, Telsyte points to its latest research on modern 2-in-1 tablets, or "tablets which can be also used as a computing device (with keyboard)", and that continue going "from strength to strength with 2-in-1s accounting for a third of tablet sales in 1H 2017".

It's a far cry from the days when Windows Tablet PCs once cost $4000 or more and were but in the mere single digit-land of sales – it only took a couple of decades for Windows 2-in-1s to finally get their act together and be affordable enough, worthy enough and have enough battery life to actually be worth buying.

Telsyte says: "Windows-based devices from a range of manufacturers have clearly benefited from the merging of PC and tablet features, while demand for the iPad Pro* has also been increasing as Apple positions its top-of-range products as an all-in-one computing device for the average computer or tablet user."

Telsyte uses the *asterisk to explain why iPad Pros are counted as 2-in-1s at long last, stating: "[*] Please note Telsyte measures Apple iPad Pro models as 2-in-1s for comparison reasons, due to having a specifically designed Apple keyboard which is typically sold together."

It is at this point that Foad Fadaghi, esteemed and respected managing director of Telsyte (and a really good, honest guy I genuinely admire and consider a friend), said: "Microsoft seems to be redeeming itself with larger touchscreens despite losing the smartphone platform battle."

Well, if you call 22% of Windows tablet sales, being second behind the 29% of Android sales and massively behind the 49% of iPad sales as a victory of redemption, I guess it is when you compare it to Windows Mobile sales.

Anyway there is good news for tablet sales, with Telsyte estimating "tablet sales will pick up with around 1.7 million to be sold in the second half of 2017, an increase of 7% over the same period last year".

Telsyte then states: "A return to growth is expected to be driven by consumers replacing aging, unsupported devices or by upgrading to 2-in-1s."

One imagines this will mostly be iPad upgrades, but given the scarce number of new Android tablets out there, it's only natural for Telsyte to state its expectation that "sales of Windows tablets in Australia [will] overtake Android by the end of 2017".

So, what else will drive device upgrades beyond ageing devices needing updates? The aforementioned reality of Augmented Reality.

Telsyte expects "the release of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore will not only encourage smartphone upgrades, but also start to have positive flow-on effects to tablets sales".

One wonders how Google will compete against ARKit's enablement on hundreds of millions of iOS smartphones and iPad Pro models (and the 2017 iPad), when Google's ARCore will run on maybe a few million top-of-the-line Android smartphones at most and officially only the Google Pixel range and Samsung S8, and not a single known Android tablet able to officially run ARCore as yet as of publication on 3 October.

Apple has hit a home run with its ARKit so widely available, and Telsyte's stated belief that "some AR applications will benefit from a larger display for better viewing and content sharing experiences between families and friends" is great news for compatible iPhone and iPad owners. With consumers identifying "games and entertainment as the main AR apps they are interested in using on tablets", it's another winning sign for iPad.

Although there are unofficial, unsupported ways to get ARCore working on supposedly any Android, wake me up when Google has official tablets running ARCore and they'll officially be in the race – until then, tell 'em they're dreamin.'

That said, according to Telsyte’s research, "over 40% of Australian tablet users have already tried AR applications such as Pokémon Go, Layar and AR like features found in social media photo filters".

And while most Australians intend to use AR mainly on their smartphones, Telsyte research shows "more Australian consumers would rather use AR on tablets than on standalone AR headsets or smart glasses".

Again, good luck using the next wave of genuine AR on any current Android tablet you own, you'll probably need to upgrade first to get the tiniest bit of satisfaction, with all the true AR effort already buzzing wildly on iOS as Android lingers in the last century.

And you want to try AR on your Surface or Windows tablet? Forget it. You'll need a mixed reality headset for that, there's ZERO buzz on AR for Windows 10 via a tablet and its camera like on an iPad, without headsets.

And, if you want to buy a HoloLens... you could buy nearly 10 2017 iPads for the same money!

Telsyte is less enthusiastic than me, but estimates with its learned lens that "less than 10% of the current iPad user base is capable of running AR apps developed using Apple’s ARKit".

That said, good thing Apple's ARKit-capable 2017 iPad has proven very popular, with iPad Pro models providing top reasons to trade-up to the most technologically powerful tablets on the market.

As for Google's ARCore ambitions, Telsyte notes that "Google has provided limited guidance on minimum requirements for running ARCore on Android tablets; however, it is expected that low-end Android tablets will not provide an adequate AR experience, which depends on powerful CPUs and graphics processing chips".

Another top Telsyte tableteer and senior analyst is Alvin Lee, who wisely states that: "While AR has been around for a long time, new developer platforms and better hardware will encourage business investment in the next generation of tablet apps."

It just seems to me that all of that developer and business interest will be where the platform is most stable, with the most users, the richest app-library and the best hardware, CPU and GPU bar none: iPads and iPhones.

Good luck, Android and Windows, you're going to need it!

Here's more information on Telsyte’s Australian Tablet Computer Market Study 2017-2021, which is a "comprehensive 118 page report".

It provides subscribers with:

  • Market sizing, platform and vendor market shares and forecasts
  • End user trends across devices, usage, platforms and accessories
  • Tablet and computer purchase intentions and loyalty
  • Product reviews and insights
  • Tablet audience estimates and strategies for media companies

In preparing this study, Telsyte used:

  • Telsyte’s Mid-Year Smart Device Survey conducted in August 2017 with a representative sample of 1,056 Australian respondents, 16 years of ages and older. And additional 338 Australian respondents, 16 years and older were additionally surveyed to determine smartphones, smart wearables and tablets purchases made between January 1 to June 30 2017.
  • Telsyte’s annual Digital Consumer survey conducted in November 2016 with a representative sample of 1,060 respondents, 16 years and older.
  • Interviews conducted with executives from service providers, network operators, manufacturers, retailers, financial analysts and channel partners.
  • Financial reports released by mobile carriers, service providers, retailers and manufacturers.
  • On-going monitoring of local and global market and vendor trends.
  • Analyst reviews of leading tablet and 2-in-1 devices.

This study was formerly titled “Australian Media Tablet Market Study”.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.