Although Amazon wowed many with its new Kindle Fire HD tablets this week, don’t count pure Android(s goog) 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(s aapl) 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(s amzn) and Nook Tablet(s bks), 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.
There 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.