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For a while, there was an ongoing debate over how successful the tablet market really was. Sure, Apple is selling gobs of iPads, but once you exclude that product, is there actually a tablet market? I guess the question was (or is), do people want a tablet or do they just want an iPad?

The Amazon Kindle Fire was supposed to put that question to rest and show how established the tablet market is. Most analysts agreed: the price, features, and ecosystem would be too much to resist and Amazon would sell tons of them. And so far as we know, they have. But did Amazon just catch lightning in a bottle? It's the same question as before, only with a different product. Do people want a tablet or do they just want…a Kindle Fire? Does the Fire's apparent success mean that other Android tablets now have a chance? Or is it just the 'iPad' of Android tablets - people don't necessarily feel that they need a tablet, they just want the Fire?

 

Just how many Android tablets are out there?

In order to find out if the Kindle Fire is the 'iPad' of Android tablets, we have to be able to compare its sales to the sales of other Android tablets. The problem is, companies are a little sheepish about releasing these numbers. (Go figure.) While it may be impossible to know exactly how many units Samsung, Asus, Motorola, and other manufacturers are selling, we can get some pretty good estimates. Here are few I came up with.

- In October 2011, Andy Rubin said that there are 6 million Android tablets out there, excluding "unofficial" tablets like the Nook Color and of course any tablet that has since been released. Amazon lists 636 items as "Android tablets". We'll take away a few of those for the "unofficial" tablets and new releases. We'll filter the remaining into a list of those that have a rating of four stars or more, just to make sure that we have the best and most popular tablets. (Obviously, the numbers will now be slightly skewed in favor of the remaining tablets, but we'll just give them the benefit of the doubt.) The number then becomes about 120. When you divide 6 million by 120, you arrive at 50,000 - a rough estimate of the average number of units sold per model. That's not a lot. (It would be even less if we factored in the entire 636.)

- How about a more generous estimate? In Google's fourth quarter earnings call in January, the company announced that 250 million Android devices have been activated. According to Google's February distribution numbers, devices running Android 3.0 or above (minus version 4.0 since we haven't seen any tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich yet) account for 3.4% of all Android devices, which is about 8.5 million devices. Again, if we take the 120 top-rated tablets listed by Amazon and divide that into 8.5 million, we arrive at 70,833 average units sold per model. That's prettier, but it's still not looking great for the Android tablet market.

- Let's be even more generous. Google also provides distribution numbers by screen size. Devices with an "xlarge" display, that is, 7-10 inches, account for 4.8% of all Android devices. You know the drill - 4.8% of 250 million equals 12 million; 12 million divided by 120 equals 100,000 average units sold per model.

These are in no way scientifically accurate numbers, but they're pretty good estimates considering the amount of information, or rather the lack thereof, available. The worst estimate was 50,000 units sold of each model and our kindest estimate was 100,000 units sold of each model. How many Kindle Fires have been sold?

Roughly 5-6 million, according to analysts. Yeah.

The Kindle Fire dominated the Android tablet market. But why? Again, we go back to our original question: Did people buy the Kindle Fire because they wanted a tablet or did they buy it simply because they wanted the Kindle Fire specifically?

 

Is it really just about the price?

One thing that supporters of the Kindle Fire say contributes to its success is the price. Sure it may not have as many features as the iPad 2 or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but for 200 bucks, it's hard to say 'No' to. If this is the case, then it would stand to reason that other high-quality tablets in the same price range would do just as well as the Fire. What do the numbers show?

Again, it's hard to tell since manufactures have some aversion to releasing solid sales numbers and the estimates I arrived at earlier can't exactly be broken down by price range. (Amazon's pricing filter is highly skewed due to Used item prices and Sale prices.) There is one other way we can determine a device's popularity: Google Trends.

Let's look at four high-quality, popular Android tablets in the same price range as the Kindle Fire, we'll say under $300. We'll refer to their original price, not sale price so products like the BlackBerry PlayBook and HTC Flyer won't be considered though they are now priced at about $200. We'll look at the Nook Tablet ($250), Acer Iconia Tab A100 ($250-$330), Lenovo IdeaPad A1 ($250), and Archos 80 G9 ($300). If a low price really is all it takes to sell a tablet then the popularity of these products should be the same as the Kindle Fire. How did they fare? See the chart below provided by Google Trends with a few extra annotations made by me.

As you can see, despite this chart including the months where these other tablets were released and the fact that they too are affordable and even ship with a more robust version of Android with more features than Amazon's tablet, the Kindle Fire still dominated the search traffic. How dramatic is this dominance? Consider the chart below that covers the same period of time but compares search trends for the iPad 2 along with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Asus Transformer Prime, Toshiba Thrive, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, the best selling Android tablets according to Best Buy and Amazon. The Kindle Fire's dominance over the cheap Android tablet market is just as extreme as the iPad 2's dominance of the high-end tablet market.

Even when you compare two popular cheap Android tablets, two popular high-end Android tablets, and the Kindle Fire, the Fire still dominates in search popularity.

The evidence is clear. The Kindle Fire is to the Android tablet market what the iPad is to the entire tablet market. Price doesn't matter. Features don't matter. If that were the case, people would have bought the Iconia Tab A100 or the Lenovo IdeaPad A1 with an optimized version of the OS, the full Android Market, and more hardware features for fifty bucks more than the Fire.

 

The tablet market is still struggling

The moral of the story is that TABLETS aren't necessarily selling well. The iPad and Kindle Fire are, but other tablets are not. Apple sold 12 million iPads in the last few months of 2011. Samsung has sold, by our most generous estimate, 100,000 Galaxy Tabs in its entire existence. Amazon has sold possibly 5-6 million Kindle Fires since its November 2011 release. Again, other manufacturers of high-quality, inexpensive tablets have sold maybe 100,000 units.

So, the question we asked was, Do people actually want a tablet or do they just want the iPad or the Kindle Fire? For the time being, I'd say people just want the iPad or the Kindle Fire. Sorry Samsung, Motorola, Asus, and all you other guys.


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49 Reactions to this post

"Do you like the Kindle Fire?"


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Mickey Meck-ann
Mickey Meck-ann Yea love it!
Trevor Magalit-Alexander
Trevor Magalit-Alexander nope that Motorola Xoom is !!
Suzan Thompson
Suzan Thompson No. My Acer A500 rocks
Ron Gensemer
Ron Gensemer The Kindle Fire fills the void and is able to keep pace with th Ipad in so many ways: It has plenty of heft and the size is perfect, unlike the bulky awkward size of an ipad. Cloud tehnology ensures it super fast and I'm able to do email, browse the web, perform applications and the screen color and resolution is awesome. The only things an ipad can do that Kindle Fire cannot is take picures and make phone calls, neither being a big deal if you pwn a digital camera and a smartphone.It ook me all of 10 minutes out of the box and operating. Kindle Fire does all thi like an ipad for $300 less. I just cannot see $300 worth of difference between the two not to mention what you are benefiting from the clout of Amazon and Google.
Gwendlynette Latrice
Gwendlynette Latrice It's not an I pad and it doesn't
Josh Alvarez
Josh Alvarez Doesn't even look like android plus it's really glitchy
Josh Alvarez
Josh Alvarez Worst tablet ever
Ryno Bones
Ryno Bones I've got a few friends that got rid of their Kindle Fire shortly after getting them. Certainly nowhere near as good as an iPad, but as of now, no Android tablet can compare. I'm not saying that as an Apple fan..I've got a NookColor running CM7.1 on eMMC and CM9 on SD. I'm an Android fanboy...But I still know iPad wins for now.
Tony Eddy
Tony Eddy It's the Wii of tablets.
Larry Lambert
Larry Lambert With go launcher yes
Julius Ray Washington
Julius Ray Washington I really like my Kindle Fire.. I didnt buy one to replace my cell phone. I mainly use it for movie and books etc.. but its not the Ipad of droid tabs nor was it made to be.
Eric Quach
Eric Quach tablets are useless. the only reason there is a category for it is because the ipad got so popular and the other companies decided to join in, because it seems like a reliable market because so many people brought the ipad... I find all tablets useless..
Vidya Prakash
Vidya Prakash an iPad costs around $450 and Kindle around $199 .... how can you compare loser!
Louie Trinidad
Louie Trinidad No
Brian Mayfield
Brian Mayfield I realy like my Kindle... but it shouldnt be compaired to any tablet... android or that other thing... its an e-reader on steroids... but i still love it!
Zach Cline
Zach Cline Nope
Gustavo Sanabria
Gustavo Sanabria Though it is a nice tablet the Kindle Fire is not as robust as many other Android based tablets in the market. So I have to disagree. Cheers.
Octo Verduzco
Octo Verduzco Prefer kindle ink.... For everything else.... My ipad.....
Jourdan Fletcher
Jourdan Fletcher Nope!!! HP Touchpad running Android 4.0 above all else
Tony Abiama
Tony Abiama Sale/popularity wise? Yes. Specs... Nope!
Henry Murillo
Henry Murillo I think it's fun! And I have an iPad 2
Jeff Albert
Jeff Albert Apple is ahead of the game with the iPads in the Tablet world. But people have to stop comparing the Kindle Fire to the iPad2. The Kindle Fire is a great Tablet for a lower end tablet.
Paul Davis
Paul Davis It distracts my wife from messing with my ipad2!
Joel Anderson
Joel Anderson Nope. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 is.
Francis San Pedro
Francis San Pedro I'll get one if there's ever a deal to price it at $150.
Kyle Cordiano
Kyle Cordiano Needs 1GB of ram
Jamille Browne
Jamille Browne @Gordon No not really sure you may not be able to do certain things as laptops but in a few years with the introduction of windows 8 that notion will be invalid. Where tablets are right now they are an accessory but the main aspects of a laptop can be done on a tablet when looking at high end android tablets like transformer prime.. or even the thrive.
Jessica Martin
Jessica Martin I LUV MY KINDLE!!!!!!!!!!!! <3
Clint Harris
Clint Harris No, closed american tablet unavailable to non USA countries.
Natalie Fern Hamilton
Natalie Fern Hamilton very happy with mine!
Alex Englehart
Alex Englehart Returning my a100 for one just because of the development on the kindle
Arnulfo Barajas
Arnulfo Barajas love my kindle:)
Jamille Browne
Jamille Browne Well... no because for one its reasonably price and also it can be hacked to run full blown android and without restrictions. Plus its mainly an eBook though.
Chad St John
Chad St John But even then the comparisons might come short in a true comparison. Mainly because it took a spin on making a handheld device that allows you to stay connected, connect to media (amazon prime) and also be connected to a shopping store (amazon) and the ability to stay connected to the web and social medias of this day in a simple 7 inch tablets. In my humble opinion the fire was made to keep you connected not to make you productive. Like many of the tablets it is compared to. Again, my humble opinion.
Ryan Duquette
Ryan Duquette no not at all i would never compare it to the ipad
Gordon Christie
Gordon Christie all tablets are a bit crap really if they could do what a laptop can then they would be the replacement they were claimed to be when first introduced
Chad St John
Chad St John The problem is people compare it to a tablet (ipad) that nothing has been able to compare to. Compare it to an a100, the nook tablet, the playbook. Any of these kind of comparisons make more sense.
Oscar Ruelas
Oscar Ruelas noooo the kindle is the kindle end of the story
Paul Dane Gonzalez
Paul Dane Gonzalez In terms of its sales, yes. Other than that most definitely not.
Chad St John
Chad St John It really depends on how you will use it. And not to mention, amazon prime membership makes it a great device to have from the media aspect. I own an ipad and swear by it (obviously). But the kindle has its place in the market.
Daniel Villarreal
Daniel Villarreal Android sucks, apple rules
Kevin Vernon
Kevin Vernon Love mine after I rooted it.
Mike Carrion
Mike Carrion No.
Mitch Miller
Mitch Miller iPad IS the android tablet
Francis Singh
Francis Singh so far its totally awesome. better then the evo tablet in my experience. and the ipad. if u got patience. its perfect if ur a lazy lousy tablet lover, get an ipad
Raquel Adams Cox
Raquel Adams Cox Sent mine back the day I received it. ;/
Rory Hinkel
Rory Hinkel Seems like it would make a good book-end
Jordan Richman
Jordan Richman nope.
Aaron Yancey
Aaron Yancey no.




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