Bad news, everyone: it seems Apple stopped selling iPads in the U.S.
Making the rounds this week is a Pew survey that puts iPad market share at only 52% — down from 81% a year ago.
Back then, 8.1% of the survey respondents had an iPad. Now, one year later, 22% say they have a tablet but only 52% of those are iPad owners — making iPad’s share just 11.3%. This modest gain equals only 34 new iPad owners in the surveyed group of 1069 and is within the study’s margin of error. For all we know, Apple could have sold zero iPads in the U.S. over the past year.
What’s going on here?
The year-ago study was conducted over the phone and was delightfully simple. All respondents were simply asked whether they had a tablet, and if they did, the make and model. But crucially, if the respondent said that they had a Kindle or a Nook, the interviewer clarified that e-readers didn’t count as tablet computers. The new survey, conducted over the web, offered no such clarification. Kindle Fire and Nook Color appear in the multiple choice question without explanation.
In the 2012 survey, like in the old one, respondents were immediately asked if they had a tablet, but the question about tablet brands was at the very end: it’s question number 105. Only about half of the surveyed tablet users got far enough in the questionnaire to answer it.
Because of selection procedures, non-smartphone owners were significantly overrepresented in the group of respondents that did finally get asked about their tablet brand. In the overall survey, about two thirds of tablet owners had both a tablet and a smartphone, but at the point where respondents were asked to name their tablets, 55% of smartphone owners had already been eliminated from the survey. Based on that, it seems that there were potentially 2.2 times as many non-smartphone owners in this group as there were in the overall survey.
Do these things explain away the iPad’s plummeting share? I don’t know. It’s certainly believable that Kindle Fire now has significant market share. But I also think that the distinctions between e-readers, tablet computers and smartphones can still be too tricky for the general public, and I’m sure that some owners of e-ink Kindles ended up being counted as Kindle Fire owners with this methodology. Another likely source of bias is the overrepresentation of people without smartphones. I would assume that, as a group, they’d be oriented towards the low end of the tablet market.
Then again, I’m just a shill for my iPad-only magazine platform.