updated 09:30 pm EDT, Tue July 30, 2013
Ad giant relied on limited study that didn't consider main sales outlets
Advertising giant Google has been revealed to have deliberately used a flawed study in an effort to make its Nexus 7 tablet look more popular. During the launch of the latest Nexus 7, a Google executive showed figures that "proved" that the Nexus 7 was the most popular tablet in Japan, outselling the iPad. This has now been debunked with the revelation that the study by Japanese market research firm BCN did not include iPad sales from any of Japan's seven Apple Stores, its two largest telecom partners, or Apple's direct online channel.
While the exact percentage of iPads sold through these channels is unknown, it would certainly be a very significant percentage -- and shipment figures from the more-reliable research firm IDC suggest that during the period in question, Apple shipped more than twice as many iPads as Google did Nexus 7 units. Indeed, the BCN study only touched on 16 percent of the available tablet-carrying outlets in Japan -- and appears to have "gerrymandered" the stores it did cover to ensure a positive result for Google. The false claim was covered by most mainstream media sites, which simply reported the findings (though MacNN's own report expressed some skepticism, calling the figures "unique" among worldwide sales and shipment data).
In fact, Apple reported more recently that sales in Japan were up 60 percent year-over-year this spring, and during the period cited by the Google study, Apple's Japan sales overall were up 88 percent from the previous quarter and up 25 percent year-over-year. When combined with IDC's shipment data, the numbers make it clear that the selective BCN study was designed to mislead.
Google's use of the false claim casts further doubt on its infrequently-updated activation claims, which likely include any device running any version of Android -- counting, for example, Chinese state-made devices that have no contact with Google services or stores beyond simply running Android as the OS, as well as Amazon's non-Google Android variant for the Kindle and Kindle Fire. The company now claims around 1.4 million activations per day, and expects to hit one billion total activations sometime in the late summer or early fall of this year.
Of these, Google says that 70 million of the activations have come from Android tablets, with 50 million of that figure having been activated in the last year. The numbers are meant to offer a window into potential end-user sales rather than shipments, but are difficult to verify as seemingly few of these activated tablets ever access the Internet.
Apple has sold about 148 million iPads since its debut, or more than double the sum total of all Android tablet activations. This figure roughly corresponds to the ratio of iPad shipments to Nexus 7 shipments to Japan during the calendar fourth quarter of 2012 -- 773,000 to 350,000.