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Summary:

The common belief that “there’s no tablet market, just an iPad market” may be changing. Based on the number of daily device activations, the gap between Google tablet sales and those of Apple’s iPad is closing. Improved software and the Nexus 7 tablet are likely reasons.

A trio of Nexus 7 tablets

Although Amazon wowed many with its new Kindle Fire HD tablets this week, don’t count pure Android slates out of the race for tablet sales. Most hardware makers shy away from providing actual sales numbers, but some simple math and new information on total Android activations tell us that Google Android tablets are catching up to Apple’s iPad on a daily basis quicker than previously believed.

At a Motorola press event on Tuesday, Google’s ex-CEO and current chairman, Eric Schmidt offered up a key data point when talking about Android device activiations. Schmidt said nearly 1.3 million Android devices were activated daily, and of those, 70,000 were tablets. ZDNet’s Ed Burnette used that information in conjunction with Apple’s reported iPad sales and found that Android slate sales are approaching 40 percent of Apple’s iPad sales.

Here’s the reasoning. We know that Android tablet activations only include devices that use Google accounts for the device and apps. That rules out tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, both of which forgo the use of Google apps. So the 70,000 per day are tablets that are purely based on Google’s platform. Burnette notes that Apple sold 17 million iPads in its most recent fiscal quarter, which works out to 188,888 iPads sold each day, on average. Divide that figure into the 70,000 Android tablet sales number and you get 37.2 percent.

That’s a big jump from 14 months ago when I last tried to extrapolate Android tablet sales. Back then, I figured that of the cumulative 133 million Android devices activated at the time, only 1.2 million of those were tablets. And in the quarter ending in June 2011, Apple sold 9.25 million iPads. Obviously, over 9 million iPads sold in a three month period easily trumped 1.2 million Android tablets sold all time. Based on the math, though, the gap is surely closing.

Google Now on Nexus 7There are two main reasons for Android tablets starting to catch up. First is the state of Android’s tablet software. In February 2011, Android 3.0 was the tablet platform and it was clearly rushed and incomplete. That changed with Android 4.0 and more recently 4.1; both offer a much better tablet experience.

Second, and more timely, is Google’s low-priced Nexus 7 tablet. For $199 consumers can go online and buy a relatively high-performing 7-inch slate that’s easy to take everywhere. Combine the Nexus 7 hardware and software with improved Google Play content services and you’ve got an attractive product.

Is Apple’s iPad still the top dog when it comes to tablets? Absolutely, and I see no evidence to suggest otherwise. But the theme of “there is no tablet market, there is only an iPad market” is starting to look outdated based on the data we see today.

  1. Google does not count non-certified devices, China sells over 200 thousand Android tablets per day, mostly sold all over China, India and the rest of the developing world. Go ask Google why they don’t count non certified Android devices, most Chinese Android tablets and smartphones are not certified even though they all come with Google Play store and Google apps pre-installed.

  2. ARMdevices.net Friday, September 7, 2012

    Amazon Android tablets are also not included in Google’s Android activations count.

  3. Activations is a bs count. So is “shipped”. Sold is the only truth… And then there is “used” where we see most androids falling short even if they sell.

    1. Well, you really can’t use an Android tablet that you bought to a large degree unless you activate it, i.e.: set it up with a Google account, so why is it not an accurate count?

      1. If that is then why:

        1. Why do I never see Android tablets in the wild? I’m sure you or anyone else would agree.
        2. Why are Android web usage numbers (tablet or phone) so much smaller compared to iOS?
        3. Why do devs say they have 25% of the app download rate (paid or free) of Android apps compared to iOS when Android is supposed to have 4x the marketshare?

        Unless most Android owners are out there using their phones and tablets as doorstops, the numbers are bogus.

      2. @motionblur 1. Android tablets and phones dominate the world. 2. Android web usage is much much higher than iOS, even gigaom.com surely has higher Android usage than iOS, ask Kevin to check his stats. 3. Angry Birds makes far more money and far more downloads on Android than iOS. It’s just bogus to say iOS has more app downloads, that is purely not true. 5 Android devices are sold for each iOS device sold worldwide.

      3. Activation means a device being activated online? That will also include devices that is factory reset and re-activated? Google didn’t say new activation, they say “activated”. People were getting another $25 credit if they reset and reactivate their Nexus 7 and there is no limit on how many times you can do this. Now can you see why the tablet activation stats are higher all of a sudden?

        1. IIRC, Google has previously said that re-activating the same device with the same Google account only counts as once. I can’t speak to the Nexus 7 credit because it may or may not be tied to activations as measured by Google.

        2. Meant to add: Google patched the multiple credit issue in 3 days, so since late July people couldn’t get around the system. It’s unlikely (if not impossible) that the situation is still impacting daily activations now.

      4. Issue with the Lexus 7 was you need to activate with a different account, so it will be counted as another activation. And before the patch you can do it as many times as you have credit cards. Schmidt didn’t say when the report was done and how long the accounting period was.

        Last quarter, Android phone shipment worldwide was 107.8 million, that gives 1.2 million activation a day including no name brands that were not activated according to Charbax above. Google is quoting 1.3 million activation a day, while US Android market was down 5% from last year. The numbers just don’t add up if they are not counting multiple activations from the same device, unless Android sales went up like 20% in that last 2 month.

        Something sounded funny, when the cost of Nexus 7 is $152 + marketing cost + licensing cost from MSFT and it comes with a $25 credit. Making the profit margin near zero if not at a lost?

    2. What’s the matter??? Did you look at the EU and Spain implosion of iphone market share numbers (30% in 2010 vs. 2.9% in the most recent quarter; 87% for Android) and had a brain fart??? LMFAO… too funny…

      1. Do you know status in Spain? unemployment number is close to 35%. it is the poorest Country in EU, and poor people cant afford iPhones, thats the ONLY reason Android is doing well, you can get dirt cheap Android devices, but no iPhone :-)

    3. Concurred with Larry,
      apple marketshare is shrinking worldwide and still the apple fanatics still put their heads in the sand with excuses of BS and “don’t see it in the wild”.
      Open your eyes and you will see the pasture is greener than just your state of USA that you live in.

  4. TheMacAdvocate Friday, September 7, 2012

    You’re taking one data point from one Google executive’s speech one time to come up with your headline. That’s some solid analysis.

    1. If you have better data, I’m happy to see it. ;)

      1. That’s kind of the point, Kevin: there isn’t any. I humbly submit that deriving statistics using a singular data point would best be left unpublished.

        1. Fair point and if you don’t feel the data is of any value, I totally understand. There are others that do, which is why I looked at the numbers. Thanks!

  5. richardmgarrett Friday, September 7, 2012

    My guess is it would only be about 39.5% if you and Matt Miller quit purchasing so many dang tablets! Just sayin’…. ;)

  6. Actually, the maths is a little more complex, but not much.

    You need to do this. 70000 / (70000 + 188888) which equals 27%

    188888 isn’t the total number of tablets, it’s just the ones Apple sells.

    Still, since I did this on my Nexus 7 I wish you were right. :-)

  7. Hi Kevin. That number is really hard to believe. There is a reason why Schmidt says “activated” instead of “sold”. In the case of Samsung against Apple it was revealed that Samsung sold a dismal 37,000 in the last quarter.

    http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/08/10/apple-sold-5-7-million-tablets-in-the-u-s-last-quarter-court-documents-show-samsung-sold-37000/

    We all know that before the Nexus 7 (we still need solid numbers on those, and if they had reached a milestone Schmidt surely would have boasted about it), Samsung was the one doing best in the Android tablet market, so all the rest of companies should not be selling as much. So how come Android tablets are selling more than 70,000 per day when all important Android OEMs couldn’t be selling more than 100K or 150K per QUARTER according to hard sales data?

    It seems to me there is something fishy here with Schmidt’s math. Either he is making this up or he is counting something that he shouldn’t. Wouldn’t be the first time…

    1. Activated is a more accurate number than sold, because to activate a product you need to first BUY it, then SIGN IN, then access the Google play store to download apps. So in essence the fact that they quote ACTIVATED devices is a lot more honest and accurate than shipped or sold numbers.

      1. Only problem with activation, is you can factory reset the device and activate it again. It’s like apps, if they say 1000 sold vs 1000 downloaded. See my post above.

    2. Activated is more accurate than shipped and sold, because an activated device is one that has been bought, signed in, and used to download apps form the google play store.

    3. You are aware that Samsung itself sells more Smartphones than all of Apple’s devices put together? Right?

  8. one day android will rule the world mo ah ah ah

  9. Laughing_Boy48 Friday, September 7, 2012

    It doesn’t matter to Apple if more consumers are buying Android tablets as long as Apple can sell every tablet it makes. Android tablets come from dozens of manufacturers all fighting for a piece of tablet market share. Each Android vendor is hurting sales of other Android vendors. If a person wants to use iOS and integration with their iPhones and Macs then Apple devices are the only way to go.

    Apple’s financial model does not require Apple to hold majority tablet share. The company will continue to make money by making the most profits and selling to higher-end users. If Google claims that they’re activating more and more tablets per day then good for them. Google doesn’t get very much out of it in the way of revenue. More consumers are using tablets and it probably hurts Microsoft more than it does Apple as consumers start neglecting their Windows desktop computers.

    Android is an OS that was meant to be used by as many companies as possible and it appears to be doing what it was meant to do. iOS is used for Apple devices and it seems to be doing precisely what it needs to do. Both Google and Apple appear to be doing financially well as companies, so maybe both are winning.

    1. amend to that, a balance view rather than making up excuses

  10. Eric Schmidt said it, oh it must be tue…

    U mean these are the people who lie to EU regulators and secretly hack millions of mobile browsers.

    Got it!

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