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Android Tablets Accomplish What Apple's iPhone 5C Couldn't


Outpacing annual iPad sales for the first time, Android tablets succeed in cornering the low-end market.

Tablet computers weren't anything new when Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) first-generation iPad debuted in April 2010. But nobody could deny that Apple hit the ground running and effectively created the tablet market with a sleek and powerful device. At that point, and for a while following its launch, the iPad became the only tablet to own -- to the point where "iPad" became synonymous with "tablet" in the same way "Band-Aid" came to mean "every adhesive bandage."

But the iPad, being an Apple device, commanded a premium price. And although it took some time, competitors tinkered and advanced their own offerings at a cheaper price, so now the sensible options in the marketplace aren't just limited to one.

Last year, because of this, Apple's sales dominance fell to its chief opponent: Android (NASDAQ:GOOG).

According to a recent Gartner report, Android tablets commanded a whopping 61.9% of worldwide tablet sales in 2013, with an incredible 120.9 million units sold. Comparatively, iPad sales numbered just over 70 million and took 36% of global sales. Although nearly quadrupling its sales numbers from 2012, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) came in at a distant third with 2.1% of sales, or slightly over 4 million sold. This marks the first time since the iPad's debut that Apple wasn't the leader in global market share, although the writing was on the wall in 2012 when the company took 52.8% of the market and Android had 45.8%.

Gartner points to Android's massive success in low-end markets and with first-time tablet buyers for its exponential gains. Ironically, last year's iPhone 5C attempted to break into that same demographic but met disappointing results. Recently, former Apple marketing guru Ken Segall explained that in addition to the device's far-from-cheap price tag, the iPhone 5C's "unapologetically plastic" design ran counter to the public image that Steve Jobs had cultivated on his watch as CEO. "Apple is a company that doesn't do 'cheap,'" Segall wrote. (See: Former Apple Inc. Exec Explains Why the iPhone 5C Flopped)

But solid devices at a decent price isn't necessarily enough to win a loyal fan base, according to Gartner research director Roberta Cozza. "In 2013, tablets became a mainstream phenomenon, with a vast choice of Android-based tablets being within the budget of mainstream consumers while still offering adequate specifications," Cozza said in a statement. "As the Android tablet market becomes highly commoditized, in 2014 it will be critical for vendors to focus on device experience and meaningful technology and ecosystem value -- beyond just hardware and cost -- to ensure brand loyalty and improved margins."

In other words, both Google and Apple have some things they can learn from one another.

Related stories:

Tablet Demand Slows During Alleged Mobile Device Boom

Good News for Apple and Samsung: Tablets Will Overtake PCs This Year

Apple's iPhone 5C Fiasco Is Not the End of the World
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