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The iPad is still the world's favorite tablet, but for how long?

gadgets Updated: May 17, 2014 12:19 IST

The latest figures from ABI Research show that Apple is still building the consumer's product of choice when it comes to tablets -- the device category it invented. However, Samsung is catching up, fast.

Just like the smartphone market, the tablet market is becoming a two-horse race. Of the 41.3 million tablets shipped over the first three months of 2014, 71 % were either Apple or Samsung devices.

Asus, maker of, among other things, the Google Nexus 7 tablet -- universally considered the world's best sub-10-inch tablet running Android -- only managed to ship 2.1 million devices. This puts it in a distant third place behind Samsung's 13 million shipments and Apple's 16.4 million units.

ABI's figures are based on early vendor shipment share estimates and therefore come with a margin of error of +/-3 % as a number of vendors are yet to provide their complete breakdowns.

Nevertheless, these preliminary figures offer enough accuracy to show the progress that Samsung has made over the past 12 months. The company has taken a huge 10.8 percent jump in terms of market share (compared with Q1 2013), and at the same time, the iPad has slipped by almost the same amount (-10.1%).

But it's not just Samsung that's gaining on Apple; the Android ecosystem as a whole has finally overtaken iOS in terms of tablets. ABI Research's figures show that 56.3 % of tablets shipped over the first three months of 2014 did so with Android on board (Apple's iOS was on 39.6% of tablets), and Windows 8 or Windows RT was on 4.1 % of tablets. This gives Microsoft a similar share of the tablet market to the one it has in the smartphone market.

Demand for tablets in general appears to be slowing down, but shipments of devices with integrated 3G or 4G/LTE connectivity are actually on the rise. In all, 22 percent of tablets that shipped did so with an embedded modem on board, which, according to ABI is the highest percentage since 2011.

May and June are expected to be busy months in the tablet market. Not because consumer demand will increase, but because Microsoft, LG and Samsung are all planning to launch new devices between now and the end of June. Microsoft is tipped to launch a mini version of its Surface tablet with an 8-inch display in May, while LG has already announced its intention to sell three new devices with a choice of 7-inch, 8-inch and 10.1-inch displays.

Samsung, meanwhile, is inviting the media to a special event on June 12 in New York where it is expected to launch a brand new range, so expect super-slim Galaxy Tab tablets that boast innovative AMOLED screens and some of the same features, such as a fingerprint scanner, found on its current flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5.