updated 12:04 am EDT, Fri August 23, 2013
Expected new models may halt slide in shipments, marketshare
Even though Apple actually shipped a great deal more iPads to China in the June quarter than it had a year prior -- an increase of 28 percent -- it still lost nearly half its marketshare in the country, IDC reports. The iPad remains the most popular tablet in China, but competitors are gaining ground at a rapid pace -- at least in terms of shipments, the only measure of popularity available in the region.
The company sold 1.48 million units in China in the calendar second quarter -- Apple, unlike any other tablet makers, only reports actual end-user sales -- which was about three times the number reported shipped by Samsung. However, the Korean company's 571,000 units represented a growth of 329 percent year-over-year, enough to capture second place and 11 percent of the market. China-based Lenovo took third place with 413,000 tablets, which was still a 102 percent increase YOY to claim eight percent marketshare.
With most of its competitors increasing tablet shipments in the triple-digit percentages, it is only a matter of time before Apple's top ranking is eclipsed. While the calendar third quarter will likely see Apple lose more share in the China market, the expected September arrival of new iPad models may reverse the trend in the December quarter.
However, the overall deterioration is likely to continue: as Forbes points out, Android-based rivals (including local tablet makers like Lenovo and smaller companies that are encouraged by the Chinese government) enjoy a wider distribution network, lower overall prices and a dramatically higher share of the related smartphone market that may encourage people to continue with Android.
Factors that may help Apple slow or even reverse the rate of share loss could include the generally negative public perception in China of most low-quality Chinese Android tablets, many of which don't connect to any Google services and can't be considered in the same vein as western Android tablets. Another possible aid to Apple is the likelihood of the company retaining but lowering the price of the original iPad mini and fourth-generation full-size iPad as a means of staying competitive.
While Apple makes some concessions to the political and business environment in China with iOS in the country, the app "ecosystem" is far more advanced and developed than the locally-controlled tablet app market of competitors. There are more than 50 Chinese companies making tablets, but apart from Lenovo and Taiwan-based Asus and Acer, all have one percent or less of the market -- and experts believe the market is ripe for consolidation and shakeouts.