Report: Apple Extends its Lead in the Tablet Market

Posted on May 6, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Chrome OS, iPadOS, Mobile with 34 Comments

The market researchers at Canalys claim that Apple saw iPad unit sales growth of 50.3 percent in the first quarter and extended its lead in the tablet market.

“The tablet market continues to defy expectations with the strength of its comeback,” Canalys Research Analyst Himani Mukka says. “Even beyond the traditionally strong holiday season, vendors are seeing elevated demand as the need for affordable computing power and connectivity persists. At a time when the overall PC market is facing a supply crunch, the vendors that have strong tablet offerings have been able to squeeze out even greater gains from the increased demand for screen access and remote productivity brought about by the pandemic.”

According to Canalys, Apple extended its tablet market lead in the first quarter by growing iPads sales by 50.3 percent to 15.2 million units sold. Samsung came in second, with 8 million units sold, followed by Lenovo (3.8 million), Amazon (3.5 million), and Huawei (2.1 million). Aside from Huawei, which saw units sold decline by 28 percent year-over-year (YOY), all of these vendors experienced double- or triple-digit growth in the quarter.

Looking ahead, Canalys expects tablets to become mainstays in growing sectors such as education as well as in “wider commercial deployments to support digital transformation.”

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Comments (34)

34 responses to “Report: Apple Extends its Lead in the Tablet Market”

  1. angusmatheson

    My iPad Pro is my favorite computing device I have ever used. My surface pro 7 is the most frustrating tablet I have ever used. I would use my 10 year old cheap when it was bought android tablet as a tablet over it in “tablet mode”. Although I of course got rid of that annoying do you want to go into tablet mode when the keyboard is unattached, then if you say yes. The whole screen goes blank for a few seconds. Trying to hit a tiny red X to close a window with my fingers, which really are that big, is almost impossible.

    • bluvg

      They really shouldn't have marketed it as a tablet in a market that thought tablet = iPad. But there's a use case for it where it's a near-ideal device for some.

    • jt5

      I have both and like them for different reasons. I like the iPad because it is simple and convenient when I travel. I love the surface pro 7 because of the pencil - and the type of work I do in Windows. I wish I truly could combine them- but that is another discussion for another time.

      • angusmatheson

        Have you tried the Apple Pencil? Both the magnetic one and the stupid weird lightning charging one are really great. I am no artist, but even for stylus and writing, I really prefer them to the cheap feeling plastic surface pen. And the tip of the surface pen is so strange. I did just have to replace its battery and once I found the right battery it was easy to do, so that is a plus for Microsoft.

      • Oreo

        Another vote for the Apple Pencil. It is a big step up from the Surface, not least because modern iPad Pros have a screen refresh rate of up to 120 Hz (2 x of what the Surface Pro supports) and a touch sensor refresh rate of 240 Hz. This markedly improves drawing and writing on the iPad Pro.

  2. yoshi

    I just picked up the latest iPad Air earlier today. It might be my favorite product that Apple has made. Still feeling a bit of guilt over the cost, but the more I use it, the less I'm caring about that.

  3. jimchamplin

    I’ve always lowballed on tablets. My last iPad was the Mini 2 and I got that in 2016 when it was already an old model. When my girlfriend wanted one, I got her an open box special on a Samsung that I don’t even remember the model of, and it was already out of support. My enjoyment of tablets was seriously waning, but I got the current model of the iPad Air very recently and it reminds me of why I enjoyed my first iPad (the 3rd model.) The larger screen makes the thing an absolute joy to use. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s just simply satisfying.


    Even using it with keyboard and mouse support - I’m using Logitech Bluetooth accessories with it, not the overpriced Magic Keyboard - is great. I’m back to only using my PC for gaming, which is exactly why I bought it.


    Pretty much what I mean is that once you use the thing and the software designed for it, the iPad makes sense.

    • bettyblue

      I am pretty much in the same boat. Except my PC which was only used for gaming has been replaced by an Xbox Series X. PC game cheating in MP games was just out of control. Hopefully the walled garden that is Xbox wont be broken up and all kinds of software will get in from other stores and the cheating will ramp up there.


      That over powered PC is now running Linux/VMware workstation and serving up VM's for testing/certification stuff. I will never own a Windows PC again.

  4. remc86007

    I have a Note 10, an iPad, a Surface Pro, and a Surface Laptop. I use them all a lot but all for different things. There is very little overlap in my use cases. The iPad I use for reading transcripts (often 1,000+ page PDFs) and I use it for Foreflight. It is excellent for both of those use cases, but I haven't found anything else I would choose to use it to do. I find web browsing on it very cumbersome, and for casual web browsing I reach for my phone or the Surface Pro 9 times out of 10. It also can't do a lot of my hobby related stuff: it doesn't have good brewing software, I can't use it to tune my car, etc. I guess most people have simpler tech needs than me, but I can't imagine using it as my sole computing device.


    Echoing what bluvg said, I can't believe the marketshare isn't higher. Do people really buy android tablets? I find android frustrating enough on my phone...

  5. RobertJasiek

    Lead by manufacturer is unfair statistics because Apple is the only competitor in the iPadOS market. Distribution per OS family would be relevant.

  6. Travis

    Love my Galaxy Tab S7.

    • Oreo

      You and all 15 other people who bought one. As far as I can tell, Google isn’t even trying anymore to make Android into a veritable tablet platform. It seems like such a missed opportunity.

      • Travis

        Have you used a tab s7? It is a much better productivity device than an iPad because dex is built in so you can easily switch to a desktop interface. The keyboard cover has a surface pro like hinge built into it and a place to store the pen. Speaking of pen it is much better integrated into the experience than an iPad. So I suspect that most people just repeat what they read online and haven't actually used one. And the knock that most reviewers harp on is app support, which I don't get at all as the apps I use are all there and work very well.

      • cnc123

        According to the stats above, Apple outsells by about 2 to 1. Does that mean 30 people bought an iPad?

        • Oreo

          Relax, I was being facetious. (Not so much about the state of Android on tablets.)

        • hrlngrv

          Per https://www.canalys.com/newsroom/tablets-chromebooks-q4-2020, Apple had 37% of the 2020 tablet market with 58.8 million units shipped. Since there were 160.6 million tablets of all types shipped in 2020, and since there are only two tablet OSes of any significance, there were around 100 million Android tablets from all makers shipped in 2020. Remove ones from Amazon, and there were around 85 million non-Kindle, non-iPad tablets shipped in 2020.

          Since most dedicated use commercial tablets, e.g., the ones on the back of airline seats, are Android tablets, maybe NBD that they outnumber iPads.

  7. bluvg

    50.3%, wow. I'm kinda surprised it isn't higher, though, since the Android tablets are such duds.

    • darkgrayknight

      Interestingly, iPad sales are less than the other tablets listed, so less than 50% of the market in sales. Certainly they are the better tablet, but other tablets are still being sold.

    • cnc123

      I have an iPad Mini and a Tab S6, and after using both extensively and really prefering iOS for privacy and support reasons, the iPad mini is getting sold. For me, the Tab S6 has a better quality screen (OLED), a better Twitter app (Flamingo), better browsers (pick one), better anti-fingerprint coating and better ability to control and scale fonts throughout the OS. (iPadOS font sizes are all over the place. It's ridiculous.) The Tab S6 is flat out better in day to day use for me.

      • bettyblue

        "better Twitter app"


        Lol....I loath Twitter and thankfully I have NEVER had a twitter app and even if I did I can say it would NOT make or break a tablet purchase.


        Maybe a higher end model iPad would be better off. I have used Samsung tablets at work, for testing. Android just feels junky and the apps feel junky, most of them.

    • bkkcanuck

      That is 50.3% growth, not marketshare. Have no idea of marketshare - probably depends on if it includes the near $100ish devices in 3rd world countries.

  8. crunchyfrog

    There is virtually NO competition here after the iPad. Yes, Samsung makes some good tablets and I do enjoy my Tab S6 but nothing can compare to an iPad mainly due to the ecosystem and developer support.

  9. mikegalos

    But the other question is whether the tablet market has continued to collapse. This is something NetMarketShare used to track.


    Tablets went from 5.20% of the computing market in September 2019 down to 3.35% in October 2020 when they stopped tracking - a drop of over 35% in just over a year.


    • bettyblue

      I do not think Apple cares about the market share of tablets. It just another multi-billion dollar a year product line for them. As long as it remains so they will continue the product.

    • ianbetteridge

      The tablet market continues to defy expectations with the strength of its comeback” probably gives you the answer to that ;)

    • hrlngrv

      Per Canalys, tablets made up over 35% of total PC, Chromebook and Tablet shipments in 2020. Granted that's not sales, nor usage, and certainly doesn't factor in devices already in use before 2020 which remained in use in 2020.


      Tablet makers may have had a very good pandemic.

    • Greg Green

      all of these vendors experienced double- or triple-digit growth in the quarter.”


      usually double- or triple-digit growth is considered the opposite of a market collapse. Cos doer that the rest of the grew more.


      Marketshare is relative, in other words they can still grow while losing marketshare. it just means non tablets grew more than tablets did.

    • Paul Thurrott

      The tablet market is growing, not declining.
  10. bettyblue

    If we are being honest, there really is not other viable tablet option. Android tablets options for consumers is shrinking because they are not a good experience. The Surface in tablet mode is a joke from a UI perspective and app perspective.


    Like the watch Apple is running away with this market segment. You make good stuff and people want it.

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