Apple Retains Majority of Tablet Shipments in 4Q11 as Kindle Fire Drives Android Momentum

Research firm IDC today released its data on tablet shipments for the fourth quarter of 2011, pegging Apple at 54.7% of the market. Apple's share is down from 61.5% in the previous quarter, with the decline due in large part to a relatively strong debut for Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire tablet, which garnered 16.8% of the market.
"Amazon's widely-reported entry into the media tablet market with a $199, 7-inch product seemed to raise consumers' awareness of the category worldwide despite the fact that the Fire shipped almost exclusively in the U.S. in the fourth quarter," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices. "As a result, products across the pricing spectrum sold well, including everything from Apple's premium-priced iPads (which start at $499) to Pandigital's line of Android-based, entry-level tablets (which start at $120). The success of market leader Apple was particularly noteworthy, as the company's shipment total for the quarter represents an increase of 110.5% from 4Q10."
On the strength of the Kindle Fire, Android has seen its share of the tablet market rise from 32.3% to 44.6%, giving iOS and Android 99.3% of the market. Research in Motion's BlackBerry operating system holds the remaining 0.7% of the market, while HP's webOS has disappeared from the market following the company's discontinuation of its TouchPad.

IDC predicts that Android as a whole will overtake iOS in market share by 2015, but Apple's single-vendor strategy will see the company maintain its dominance in revenue through the end of the 2016 forecast period and beyond.

IDC's data measures shipments into the sales channel and not sales to end users, meaning that its data includes units sitting on store shelves that are not being purchased by customers. Given that Apple has repeatedly noted that it is selling every iPad it can make and other vendors have had difficulty moving their products off of store shelves, Apple has generally been regarded as having a higher end-user market share than suggested by IDC's numbers. But with the apparent success of the Kindle Fire, that disparity in shipments versus sales may be shrinking somewhat.

Related roundup: iPad Air 2

Top Rated Comments

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44 months ago
It's NOT a tablet!

But with the high-end tablets, no one even comes close to apple :apple:

By "high-end" tablets, you really mean TABLETS (iPad) vs. e-readers (Fire)

As far as tablets go, iPad is clearly a winner. Having just watched a Kindle Fire ad, it looks more like an advance Kindle, than an attempt at a tablet.

Correct. The Fire is NOT a tablet, it's an e-reader. It doesn't deserve to mentioned in the same article as the iPad, let alone compared in terms of sales (or, even worse, "shipped").

Obviously, the iPad is the only game in town when it comes to tablets. But that story gets pretty old and boring if you're an analyst or reporter. So what do you do? Invent a bold competitor in the "tablet" category (nevermind that it's not actually a tablet) and create sensational headlines and stories about how this scrappy little challenger is making gains against the industry heavyweight.

Problem is, it just doesn't pass the laugh test. The Fire has:

no front camera
no rear camera
no microphone
no bluetooth
no GPS
no accelerometer
no compass
no gyroscope
no video out
no ambient light sensor
lower resolution
less RAM
worse performance
less storage

no App store with 200,000 apps

and, finally, it's not full size.

It's like telling me you have a new car, then taking me to the driveway and showing me a set of 4 wheels. They might be really nice wheels, but it still isn't a car.
Rating: 6 Votes
44 months ago
Like 20 manufacturers make millions android tablets but no one buys them, but because shipments are counted towards marketshare, apple loses 'shipments marketshare.'
Rating: 6 Votes
44 months ago

I am admittedly an Apple fan boy, but i'm so tired of these unsubstantiated claims that the Kindle Fire is selling significantly at all. It is a nice device, but since Amazon refuses to break out sales figures by product, simply lumping all kindle products in one category, it is sloppy to make any assumptions about individual product sales. If anything the iPad with Apple's massive marketing and PR push is helping drive sales of the Kindle Fire, rather than the other way around.
Don't forget that the Kindle Fire is essentially the same hardware as the failed RIM Playbook, granted with much better software and commerce ecosystem. But even so, it just boggles the mind that where all others have failed miserably Amazon is succeeding.
I argue, recklessly and in a factual vacuum, that Amazon is selling a majority of sub $100 Kindles and a few Kindle Fires. I'll stick by this until Amazon chooses to share a sales (to consumers not channel sales) breakdown by individual product. The only reason i can see for them to bury the Kindle Fire's sales in aggregate with all Kindle sales, is because they are embarrassingly dismal at this time.
Rating: 5 Votes
44 months ago
Down-vote me if you like but I have a question.

Do shipments mean sold to the consumer or do they mean sold to the retailer?

If it's the latter, what's the point in researching and publishing these numbers?

Pardon my ignorance.
Rating: 5 Votes
44 months ago
Do they count both the shipments of devices to the retailer, and the shipment back to the manufacturer after they aren't able to sell them? That's double counting!
Rating: 4 Votes
44 months ago
I really don't think it makes much sense to lump in Kindles with Android market share.
Rating: 4 Votes
44 months ago
As far as tablets go, iPad is clearly a winner. Having just watched a Kindle Fire ad, it looks more like an advance Kindle, than an attempt at a tablet.
Rating: 2 Votes
44 months ago
So these results are for Q4.

Meaning it's the third quarter iPad 2 was on sale.
And it's the quarter its biggest "competitor" was introduced. And that competitor, the Kindle Fire costs 40% the price of the cheapest iPad, and about 30% of the average iPad selling price.
And iPad 2 outsold it nearly 4 to 1.

Rating: 2 Votes
44 months ago

That is why Apple reports sales and these other manufacturers report shipped/sold to retailers.

Apple also reports shipments to retailers as sales.

Only the sales reported from its own stores are to end users.


Sometimes, but not for long. Once a product has been for sale for a month or so, then shipments pretty much match sales, because by then the retailers have gotten a good feel for throughput.

Technically, Apple also reports shipments. However, for the most part, Apple's shipments = sales.

Yep, eventually. We've all seen plenty of older devices sitting on retailer shelves at times, though.

They do carry inventory (# in channel), but they are very transparent about it and you can easily do the math to figure out the exact number of iPads they've sold for a particular quarter.

Actually, the quoted inventory channel numbers are not what's on retailer shelves, but rather what Apple has held in reserve to meet future requests.

(I.e. when Apple reports increasing to 6 - 8 weeks' worth of channel inventory, that's NOT what's sitting in all the retailer warehouses in the world. That would not only be insane, it would be illegal channel stuffing. It's Apple's job to keep inventory ready for old or new market sales.)

The reason Apple reports their channel inventory is because it's important to know if they're producing too much or too little for demand. (It also used to be a good clue as to when a new model was coming out, although that's less helpful now that Apple continues to sell older models as lower priced entries.)

The only time that their channel inventory report translates to likely extra end user sales, is when the number radically diminishes with no other possible explanation (like a new model coming out, or factory problems). At that point, it's assumed that end-user demand is extra high and thus so is retailer demand.
Rating: 2 Votes
44 months ago

For all we know, of the TOTAL sold some 30% of the total is Fire, with another 10% Fire returns, the other 60% the cheaper eInk versions.

No. The numbers that analysts give are only for the Kindle Fire.

For 4Q11, Fire sales estimates range from:

[*]low of 3.9 million by iSuppli ( share)
[*]thru 4.7 million by IDC (
[*]up to 6 million by several others (
Most reporters use the middle number.

Still, I am sure Apple considered Fire a threat and is making smaller iPad at lower price point. I wonder if it can take attention away from Amazon?

Good question.

Like Apple, Amazon brings its own popular digital ecosystem, which includes books, video, music.

Plus of course the whole store thing where you can buy almost any physical product you want through them.

Sidenote: I love Amazon Prime! I've saved hundreds of dollars in shipping since last Fall, and the two day delivery on most things is sweet.
Rating: 2 Votes
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