Watch out, iPad! Android snags 41 percent of tablet sales

Nexus 7
Google
By Devin Coldewey

Tablet sales increased in the last year, and it appears that Android accounted for more of that growth than the current champion, iOS. Apple is still on top, but for how long?

Strategy Analytics reports that global tablet sales in the third quarter of 2012 reached nearly 25 million — up 43 percent from the same period last year. That sounds like a lot, but in fact, it's the weakest growth the tablet market has seen since it began.

But it's still a big increase in absolute terms, and Android owned the lion's share of it. It doubled its shipments since the same period last year, from 5 million to 10 million. Apple still has it beat, but their shipment increase was much smaller: from 11 million to 14 million.

So of the 25 million tablets shipped, Android accounted for about 41 percent of them, while 57 percent were iOS. 

Worth noting is that Apple's 14 million units shipped were all one or two models: the 3rd-generaion iPad and the cheaper iPad 2. Android, on the other hand, is a wilderness of sizes, brands, and prices. The Kindle Fire has been calculated to be the single most popular Android tablet, and other standouts, like the Nook and Nexus 7, have also moved quite a few units. But there are hundreds of smaller brands and cheaper devices that also contribute to the total.

Apple's new iPad Mini, unveiled Tuesday, might give a boost to sales, and the next year may also see Microsoft's new tablet, the Surface, in the mix. Pre-orders for the least expensive Surface sold out recently. And, Google, too, may yet have a surprise up its sleeve: An event on the Monday promises new tablets and possibly an updated operating system.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.