Research firm Gartner on Monday announced tablet sales numbers for the full 2013 calendar year, finding Android to have grown a whopping 127 percent to wrest the top position from Apple for the first time ever.
According to Gartner's findings, end users bought nearly 121 million tablets running Google's Android operating system, which accounted for 61.9 percent of the market. Apple, on the other hand, reportedly dropped from a 52.8-percent share of the market to 36 percent on 70.4 million sales.
An impressive performance for Android that Gartner claims is thanks to growing popularity in the low-end smaller screen device sector. The firm's numbers, however, raise red flags regarding questionable methodology and reporting.
The most glaring inconsistency is a disconnect between Gartner's 70.4 million iPad sales and Apple's self-reported 74 million unit sales for 2013. From the first quarter — Apple's second fiscal quarter — to the fourth, the company reported iPad sales of 19.5 million, 14.6 million, 14.1 million and 26 million, respectively. The total: 74.2 million iPads sold during 2013.
Barring the fact that Apple's sales figures are regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Gartner's results are not off by a trivial amount, but a huge 3.8 million units. Thought of in another way, the discrepancy, if applied to No. 3 Microsoft's sales, would almost completely wipe out the Surface maker's performance for 2013.
Further confusing the issue is Gartner's use of the term "sales." Apple is the only major company to report sales to end users, while Android device makers like Samsung note only shipments. Gartner saw Samsung's tablet business grow 336 percent year-over-year, a feat chalked up to expanded product offerings and intense marketing.
"In line with its smartphone approach, Samsung's oversegmentation of its tablet portfolio helped it to offer a wider size and price choice but also helped it to test the market and find niches," Gartner's report reads.
In its vendor breakdown, seen above, Gartner once again includes the "Other" category dominated by so-called "white box," or unbranded devices. Compared to last year's 30.1 million sales, "Other" manufacturers racked up 60.7 million unit sales in 2013. To offer some perspective, the number is larger than the recorded sales for the list's second, third and fourth place OEMs combined.
"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," said Gartner research director Roberta Cozza. "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."