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iPad sales may be dropping, but at a slower pace than rivals

The 2018 iPad Pro, announced on Thursday

Apple is continuing to lead the global tablet market, IDC analysts claim, but while the number of iPad sales declined in the most recent quarterly results, it isn't as much of a reduction compared to the overall marketplace's 8.6 percent decline in the third quarter.

Apple reported selling 9.7 million iPads in Thursday's quarterly results. A dip from the 10.3 million units it shipped for the third quarter of 2017. Despite the slight drop of approximately 6 percent, the number is still considerably higher than the rest of the market.

According to IDC, Apple has a market share of 26.6 percent, an improvement on the same period last year, where it made up 25.9 percent of the market. The increased market share is attributed to other declines in the market, with an estimated 36.4 million shipments 8.6 percent down from the previous year's 39.9 million in the quarter.

"The refreshed $329 iPad with Pencil support that launched in late March continued to drive volume, although it was unable to maintain the same momentum from the third quarter of 2017," writes IDC, as it was the first time in a while that Apple had released a lower-cost iPad. "iPad Pro saw year-on-year declines in anticipation of a refresh at the beginning of the fourth quarter," the firm suggests, "which bodes well for Apple through the end of the year."

The top five tablet producers for Q3 2018, compiled by IDC
The top five tablet producers for Q3 2018, compiled by IDC

Apple continues to have a considerable lead on the main rival Samsung in IDC's list, with the South Korean electronics giant achieving 5.3 million units for the third quarter of 2018 and a market share of 14.6 percent. These figures are down from the 6 million and 15 percent share for the same period last year, with Samsung seeing negative growth of minus 11.4 percent.

Samsung is considered to be seeing growth in its detachable device portfolio, but that is outweighed by continued slate category declines. The company is apparently facing pressure in low and mid-market segments, with competitors seen to be providing better value products.

"The tablet market is more like the traditional PC market than ever before," advised senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani. "Not only do these markets move in sync with each other, but the decreasing margins and overall decline, particularly in slate tablets, has led to the top five companies capturing a larger share" over smaller vendors.

"Even among the top five, it is essentially Apple and to a lesser extent Samsung that continue to invest heavily in product innovation and marketing," suggests Ubrani. "This has helped the two companies to set themselves apart from the rest."

The rest of the top five is made up of Amazon in third, maintaining its 4.4 million shipments, Huawei seeing growth from 3 million to 3.2 million year-on-year, and Lenovo dropping from 3.1 million to 2.3 million, equating to year-on-year growth of minus 24.5 percent.