About six months ago I wrote about Android tablets, here, wondering if they would be the next big thing in education. And given what’s been happening in the market since then, I thought it would be a good time to write an update of what I’ve been seeing and reading.
First, an overview of the tablet sales. According to IDC (2013), tablet sales worldwide outpaced predictions with 52.5 million units sold in Q4 of 2012. That’s a lot of tablets, with the Q4 tablet market growing 75.3% year-on-year and up 74.3% from the previous quarter’s totals of 30.1 million units sold. IDC attributed this to lower average selling prices (ASPs), a wide range of new product offerings, and increased holiday spending all acting as catalysts to push the already climbing tablet market to record levels.
In Q4 of 2012, Apple continued to lead the tablet market with its sales of iPads and iPad Minis totally 22.9 million units, a 48.1% increase in year-on-year. Not too surprising. But here’s the really interesting number: Samsung, the number 2 vendor, sold nearly 8 million combined Android and Windows tablets, a 263% year-on-year growth. ASUS, with its well-known Nexus branded Android tablet, enjoyed a 402% year-on-year growth during the same period.
So we know that the growth of tablet sales is huge. And we can see that the overall sales growth of Android tablets is far outpacing the growth of Apple tablets, though the absolute number of Apple tablets sold is still quite a bit higher.
But what about in education? Well, the market is still pretty fragmented. There are a number of tablet providers targeting education. There’s LearnPad, Kuno, TabPilot, Kineo, Intel Studybook, XO-4 from OLPC, MEEP, Tabeo, ChildPad, Kurio, Lexibook, Nabi and Vinci, to name a few. And most of you have probably heard about the new Amplify tablet just released by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and headed up by former NYC Schools chief, Joel Klein.
All of these tablets are trying to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded hardware space. I haven’t reviewed them all and quite honestly, I can’t tell you what the differences are among them. So how will these companies differentiate themselves in the market? I really can’t say. It will be very interesting to watch. It may well end up being a price race to the bottom.
So far, at least, we’re not seeing a big rush for schools to buy Android tablets. Why is that, given the price differential vs. Apple? My guess is that it is due to two big reasons:
1. Nobody ever got fired for buying Apple. I think I’ve told you all before that back when I worked in the interactive whiteboard (IWB) business we used to say this about Smart Technologies products. And Apple is the tablet corollary. Apple is a well-known, premium brand. Just like in the case of Smart, many schools would rather buy fewer units of a trusted brand, premium product, than numerous units of an unknown brand.
2. Android apps for education still aren’t cutting it. Having looked at hundreds of app for both iOS and Android as part of my day job over at Balefire Labs, I can say that the percentage of crap educational apps for Android is higher than that of iOS. Don’t get me wrong, the percentage of crap is high for both operating systems. But about 20% of the ed apps we’ve reviewed for iOS are decent; Android is nowhere near that. And even then, the better Android apps that we see tend to be made by developers who are making cross-platform apps; that is, apps that run on both iOS and Android.
So that wraps up my perspective on where we are with Android devices and apps in education right now. I still think that Android tablets pose a major threat to Apple in the education space. But I think the jury is still out on the timeline for that. Truthfully, it’s happening more slowly than I expected.
Please chime in with your opinions on this, particularly if you are an Android tablet user and can give some pointers to others in education who might be shopping! Do you think we’ll see more schools shifting to Android tablets? When? And why do you think that will happen?
- The five best android tablets (eschoolnews.com)
- Tablets buying guide (reviews.cnet.com)
- Best Android tablets (April 2013 edition) (zdnet.com)
- iPad’s Mini’s price makes it just a small threat to Android tablets (reviews.cnet.com)
- Android tablets projected to outsell iPad for first time in 2013 (bgr.com)