JK Shin, Samsung's mobile chief, firmly believes his company can oust Apple. "Samsung tablet shipments started to grow remarkably since the second half of last year," said Shin to analysts and investors today. Samsung expects to ship a total of 40 million tablets this year, which is more than twice the 16.6 million tablets it shipped in 2012. Sales of Apple's iPad remain strong but have leveled off.
Apple saw shipments drop from 14.6 million during the second quarter to 14.1 million during the third quarter. Despite the dip in shipments, Apple is still the world's largest supplier of tablet computers. During the third quarter, its share reached its lowest point, 29.6%, since the company introduced the iPad in 2010. The introduction of the iPad Air and iPad Mini this quarter will likely reverse the blip in iPad shipments, at least through the holiday quarter. Apple is on target to sell about 60 million tablets this year.
Samsung ranked second in overall market share during the third quarter of 2013, with shipments of 9.7 million tablets. These include its Note 8, Note 10.1, Galaxy Tab 7 and Tab 10, and the Nexus 10, to name a few. Samsung's shipments gave it 20.4% of the worldwide tablet market.
[ Samsung faces a formidable rival in Apple. Read iPad Air: First Impressions. ]
A year ago, Apple's iPad held 40.2% of the tablet market, and Samsung held just 12.5%. A lot has changed in the last 12 months.
Samsung has aggressively pursued mobile professionals and consumers alike with its Note-branded products. The Note 8 and Note 10.1 tablets, for example, are capable of multitasking with split-screen views and can be controlled with a stylus. Samsung has added technology such as IR blasters and NFC that Apple has so far avoided. It has also developed a wide range of applications and services that make its tablets attractive work machines and entertainment devices at the same time. Samsung positions its third-generation Tab 7 as a practical, inexpensive couch companion. The company even released a version of the Tab 3 for children.
Samsung has already won the smartphone crown. It ships far more smartphones than any other company in the world. Its tablets have made significant gains over the course of the last year. Apple isn't sitting still, however. The iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display are powerful and attractive devices. Samsung's tablets may be feature-rich, but they don't compare when it comes to materials, design and build quality. Given the brand new products from Apple, it is probably premature to suggest that Samsung will soon replace Apple as the world's leading tablet supplier. It may happen, eventually, but not in the next few quarters.