Apple's Grip on the Tablet Mobile Computing Market Not Yet Ironclad

A new survey by e-commerce site Retrevo finds that while Apple has gained some decent traction with the iPad, it doesn't have the market sewn up just yet. As a result, rivals like Android-based tablets can still make their presence felt under the right conditions.

To be sure, those new vendors have to move fast, if history is any indication: Apple entered the smartphone market with the iPhone just three years ago and is already eating everybody else's lunch. In a recent Retrevo Pulse study, more than 1,000 people were asked what phone they planned to buy this year, and more than 20 percent of the respondents said an iPhone.

In the tablet market, things are a little more fluid. Apple entered it two months ago with the iPad and in that time has sold about two million units. But as Retrevo found, Apple's iPad doesn't own the market just yet.

"Of course, anyone who sees the iPad in action or gets their hands on one wants one, but can everyone come up with the right excuse or convince their spouse they should spend part of their next pay check on one?" Andrew Eisner, director of community and content, wrote in a blog post on the topic.

In a survey of more than 1,000 adults, 52 percent said the main reason stopping them from buying an iPad was they didn't need one. Another 10 percent said they were looking for a good excuse to buy one. The remaining 38 percent said it was too expensive.

Among people interested in buying a tablet, 53 percent said they would buy a non-Apple one if it was less expensive than the iPad and 28 percent said they would get it if it were subsidized/discounted as part of a subscription service, similar to smartphones. The iPad is sold without a contract, and therefore without a subsidy. Its 3G access is available through Apple's sole carrier partner in the U.S., AT&T, on a month-to-month basis.

That link to AT&T -- which has faced complaints of dropped calls and poor call quality -- may further hurt Apple's ability to dominate the tablet market. According to the study, one-third of potential tablet buyers said they'd get the Android-based tablet if Verizon Wireless was its carrier. Twenty-two percent said they'd get the Android-based tablet "for other reasons" while 16 percent said they would still buy an iPad, regardless of the carrier.

It also appears that single-purpose devices aren't the key to stopping the iPad. Retrevo found that 40 percent of people who own or plan to own an e-reader also plan to buy an iPad this year. Since the iPad has a built-in e-book reader, what will become of those e-readers is anyone's guess.

"Whether or not the iPad will be snapped up by the masses remains to be seen but it's off to a good start," Eisner wrote. "As Steve Jobs said, Apple has sold one every three seconds since it went on sale. That said, if anything can compete with the iPad, it's going to be an army of Android-based tablets running Android apps, selling for less than an iPad."

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Android, iPad, Apple, tablet, mobile computing