Research firm IDC today announced its preliminary estimates of worldwide tablet shipments for the third quarter of 2013, finding that Apple's share of the market has fallen to under a third. According to IDC's numbers, Apple held a 29.6% share of the market for quarter, compared to 32.4% in the previous quarter and a 40.2% share in the year-ago quarter.
Though Apple's unit shipments grew slightly from last year to this year -- from 14 million to 14.1 million -- because so many more Android tablets were sold, particularly by Samsung and Lenovo, Apple's total tablet market share dropped by more than 10%. Notably, the quarter preceded the recent iPad refresh and should logically be Apple's weakest quarter of the year.
With no new iPad product launches in the second or third quarter to drive volume, Apple experienced a quarter-over-quarter decline in shipments from 14.6 million in 2Q13 to 14.1 million in 3Q13. Year over year, iPad shipments grew less than one percent. Apple's slowing growth—caused in part by its decision in late 2012 to move its product launches from earlier in the year to the fourth quarter—has caused the company's tablet market share to slip to 29.6%, its lowest share to date. However, with the new iPad Air shipping November 1st and the refreshed iPad mini with Retina scheduled to roll out later in November, IDC expects Apple to enjoy robust shipment growth during the fourth quarter.
"With two 7.9-inch models starting at $299 and $399, and two 9.7-inch models starting at $399 and $499, Apple is taking steps to appeal to multiple segments," said Jitesh Ubrani, Research Analyst with IDC's Tablet Tracker. "While some undoubtedly hoped for more aggressive pricing from Apple, the current prices clearly reflect Apple's ongoing strategy to maintain its premium status. It's worth noting that Apple wasn't the only one to increase the price of its small-sized tablet during this product cycle: Both Google and Amazon increased the price of their newest 7-inch tablets from $199 to $229 to cover the higher costs associated with high resolution screens and better processors."
Second-place Samsung continues to close on Apple in the tablet market, garnering 20.4% of the market -- and more than doubling its total tablet shipment number -- as other major tablet makers continue struggled to sell more than 3.5 million tablets.
As always, it is important to note that IDC's numbers track shipments instead of sales, and thus how many shipped devices are making their way into consumers' hands remains unclear. IDC's figures are also estimates, as most companies do not release their exact tablet shipment data and thus research firms must rely on supply chain data and calculations from information that is made public by manufacturers to build their estimates.