Recently IDC released their figures on “Worldwide Tablet Shipments”. Shortly thereafter, several “news organizations” and enthusiast web sites wrote about the published figures, using eye catching headlines, such as:
Even an Apple centric site like 9to5mac chimed in with the following:
At first blush, these headlines seem pretty straightforward, and would lead one to assume that Android now has a total marketshare of 56.5% of all tablets sold and that iPads now account for less than 40% of all tablets sold. Easy peasy parcheesi!
Well not so fast, hombre. There are a few problems with these headlines. First, and foremost, is the ludicrous verbiage: “Android wins”, “Android now leads”, and similar phrases that would have you believe that Android is now the most prevalent tablet operating system in the world. Did Android really win? Does it really lead?
The second problem with these headlines is that they give no indication of the timeframe for this market share data. Is it all-time market share? Market share over this past year, half-year, quarter?
Lastly, how is this data derived? Why it must be market share based on sales, obviously, you say. But you would be wrong.
Well, here are some answers. First, Android hasn’t won anything, nor does it lead anything, so far as I can tell. And that is because of the following two facts that address the aforementioned questions, above. This market share data is for a single quarter; namely, the first quarter of 2013. This market share data is based on “worldwide shipments” rather than “sales”. This distinction is very important, as in IDC’s own footnotes, they state:
“Shipments include shipments to distribution channels or end users. OEM sales are counted under the vendor/brand under which they are sold”
Apple routinely publishes units sold. Android device makers routinely refer to their units shipped. IDC has used both in their widely circulated “facts” and therein lies the problem. Units sold vs. units shipped is an apples to oranges comparison (or should we say, apples to android comparison? …sorry couldn’t resist). Just because an Android device was shipped to a “distribution channel” does not mean it was sold.
With this ludicrous mixing of data, according to IDC, Apple has had a market share of under 50% for three quarters running. And yet, according to ad agency Chitika, the iPad accounts for 81.9% of web traffic, according to their March 2013 figures, and this was reflective of an increase of 1.4% month-over-month.
Something does not jive here. How could the iPad’s market share have been below 50% for 3 straight quarters and yet see web traffic originating from those devices increase, and total over 80% in totality? Of course, this just doesn’t make any sense. I, for one, would not be surprised to find out that iPad sales (you know, that thing, which in the end is all that matters) are still accounting for well over 50% of all tablet sales.
So, if this is so obvious to me and many others who have written similar articles, why does the reporting industry write headlines and articles that are so irresponsible? I might be in the minority on this, but I think it has far less to do with any conspiracy theories, and far more to do with amateur and irresponsible journalism (to which I just contributed, by posting links to their articles, above… ugh). I hope that this trend will reverse at some point, but I fear that my hopes will remain unfulfilled.