Apple has thus far maintained its tablet lead by delivering a quality experience at a premium price.
Indeed, the iPad maker exited the first calendar quarter of 2013 with 50% share of all tablet shipments, though, according to analysts at ABI Research, the Android ecosystem is poised to overtake iOS.
"The big variable for Android is China. The Middle Kingdom is passionate about the Apple brand as well as the masses’ ability to afford technology devices," explained ABI Rsearch analyst Jeff Orr.
"Smaller, 7-inch Android tablets have become popular though most lack the Google suite of apps and Android Play marketplace. A push for sub-$200 tablets is keeping Android relevant in both developed and emerging markets."
Orr also confirmed that Android overtaking iOS-powered slates was inevitable, although no single vendor will be capable of challenging Apple’s dominance anytime soon.
"With media tablets commercially available for more than 4 years, momentum is shifting toward value and affordability, putting tablets in more of the population’s reach," he said.
To be sure, average selling price (ASP) and size have been moving down-market since Android tablets started honing in on the opportunity in 2012. Rather than try to unseat Apple in the 10"-class space, tablet vendors sought a defensible area they could own - 7"-class devices.
"Facing manufacturing limits in its first quarter of offer, the 7.9-inch iPad mini put a dent in the larger iPad sales and Apple profits. The first quarter of 2013 saw Apple cover its backlog and approach the typical 4-6 weeks of sales channel inventory while recording its second-best ever quarter for total iPad shipments.
"[We] estimate the iPad mini represents 49% of units and 39% of total iPad revenues. Expect iPad minis to become the predominant iPad model after the June quarter,” Orr added.