Amazon UK publishes a list of its bestselling tablets which is updated every few hours. Aggregating these lists over time and refining the definition of a tablet allows us to see trends that have persisted since the market became large enough to reveal meaningful information.
It's useful to check whether the model you're considering is reasonably popular as that will improve your chances of being able to find a forum, website, or repair shop later if anything goes wrong. There are a great many different models and none of the high street shops offers more than a handful. It's no surprise that Amazon's own Kindle Fires are very well placed here. The new higher-resolution Kindle Fires which arrived a few weeks ago, in time for Christmas, are now gradually moving up the list.
But for more detail on on the current top twenty, look at the tabs here - you can also get at each one on the Amazon website.
There have been quite a few new posh devices announced over the past couple of months or so, but it's pretty noticeable that they have not rushed to the top of our list. Of the new arrivals, easily the best performer is the Google Asus Nexus 7, it's only made it to number 4. The more significant change has been the drop in price of some of the existing models, particularly Amazon's own Kindle Fire HD 7. There is now a newer, smarter and more expensive HDX, but that too has failed to forge its way to the top of the list, currently at number 11.
Samsung, now the biggest seller of mobile devices in the world, has quite a range of tablets on offer, but again this year's models are not at the top of the heap. In fact it's taken four months for the most popular of the new batch (Tab 3s) to move ahead of last year's models (the Tab 2s). Partly this might be down to a slightly botched launch, but it may also reflect a general trend showing the first signs of market saturation especially amongst early adopters and the buyers of the most impressively specced devices.
[Note that the graphic (see left) shows the market share for tablets and stops after the first quarter of 1023. Samsung sells a little better into the mobile phone market which is also included in "mobile devices".]
At the other end of the spectrum, things are looking more healthy with several very cheap offerings doing very well. These gadgets are good for kids and for consuming, rather than generating content. As a consequence, the trend in the Average Selling Price (ASP) has been very definitely downwards. After a long time fluctuating between £150 and £165 prices have dropped over the past couple of months towards £120 and now it has dipped a couple of times below £110. Perhaps this also reflects a slight switch from the larger and pricier 10" models towards 7 or 8 inch ones, especially after the introduction of the trend-setting iPad Mini last year.
The iPad 4 has been available in the UK for a while now. Some people are clearly buying it from Apple direct and selling their used iPad 2 from last year via Amazon or . Thus these expensive devices sell a little more cheaply on Amazon because many are second hand.
many budget sellers - often retailing devices bought wholesale from China -
were led, up until a few weeks ago, by LelikTec - now the company has apparently changed its name to "Direct Tablet PC". following close behind are Fusion5 and TabExpress.
While the offerings from these budget suppliers have improved enormously in technical terms over the last year or so, some of the bigger brands like Acer and Asus are also producing tablets at much more competitive prices.
So,to deal first with the aberration in this popularity list: the over representation of Kindle fires. How well are they really selling? In the outside world - according to a recent IDC report -the Amazon Kindle Fires are actually in fourth place selling a creditable 1.8 million in the first quarter of 2013. That report also puts the iPads as the most popular models overall, holding around 40% of the market followed by Samsung on 18% and then Asus.
From a buyer's point of view, the fairly equal shares of the market held by the Apple's iOS and Android platforms are probably quite healthy, as it encourages competition between them.
same cannot really be said of the next most popular platform, according to IDC, which is Microsoft's Windows 8, with only 900,000 sales shared been the two flavours of its Surface tablet - RT using ARM chips and their standard offering using the more power-hungry Intel chips.
Of course, Microsoft have many other profitable businesses, a massive pile of cash, and a very positive reputation in the equities market, so they can fight an expensive battle against Apple and Google for a long time - but not for ever. The first generation of the Surface RT alone has cost Microsoft over a billion dollars - and one CEO.
With a history of being very much wedded to the Windows platform, the big American manufacturers, HP and Dell have really struggled to get a foothold in the market.
And talking of the Windows platform, it's not been excluded from these lists, it's just that the Windows tablets, like the Surface from Microsoft themselves or the HP Envy X2 just haven't been attracting enough buyers. In fact the Asus VivoTab, right, is currently placed at around number 250th in the list - a significant drop from its previous position.
Microsoft acknowledged that the Windows 8 platform was due for a bit of a rethink so unless a user is clear that they cannot avoid buying a Windows tablet, it's probably best to buy one of the alternatives now and look again after a year or so to see if Microsoft have pulled off a rather unlikely miracle with their new Windows Blue.