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Fire Tablet Sales Boost Amazon to Third Place in a Shrinking Tablet Market

Amazon-FireTablet-Family[1]We knew that the $50 Fire tablet was popular this past holiday season when it largely went out of stock on Amazon’s website, and according to the latest estimates from IDC the tablet was more successful than even Amazon’s wildest dreams.

Amazon shipped 5.2 million tablets in the fourth quarter (up from 1.9 million the previous year), boosting Amazon into third place in the global tablet market behind Apple, Samsung.

With 16.1 million and 9 million tablets shipped, Apple and Samsung continued to outsell Amazon, in spite of the Fire tablet’s low price and popularity. And even though both tech companies saw a drop in tablet sales last quarter, they will likely continue to outsell Amazon.

IDC cautioned in the press release this morning that Amazon isn’t likely to keep its position. “Amazon’s success in the tablet market has thus far been purely based on price,” the research firm says in a news release about the numbers. “While this bodes well during the holiday season, it’s unlikely the Kindle’s success will continue in the remainder of the year.”

I would say the success of the Fire tablet is due as much to marketing as price (also, decent hardware). At $50, the Fire tablet has a value which is hard to beat, and Amazon made sure everyone knew about it.

Also, Amazon’s hot tablet last year was the 6″ Fire HD6, which IDC doesn’t classify as a tablet. In short, Amazon’s success this year over last year is due almost as much to launching a device that IDC is willing to count a tablet as it is to actual sales.

idc tablet q4 2015

But if we look at the annual figures, we can see that IDC is mostly right about Amazon’s success being a one off in the 4th quarter, but also a fluke that won’t be repeated in the other three quarters.

Overall tablet sales dipped 13% last quarter, to an estimated 65.9 million. Total annual sales dipped 10.1%, to 206.8 million. And of that 20o odd million, the top five tablet makers were Apple, Samsung, Asus, Lenovo, and Hauwei.

Amazon didn’t even make the top five for the year, and that is true for most years. Amazon’s single best quarter for tablet sales is the 4th quarter, after which sales drop until the next model is launched.

idc tablet 2015


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Chris Meadows February 1, 2016 um 10:06 pm

Alas, the poor unloved 6″ form factor. Too big for some people to consider a phone, too small for others to call a tablet.

Nils Kragen February 1, 2016 um 11:58 pm

So, according to IDC, users only care about the price-to-value relationship at Christmas??

Seriously?? The fact is that Amazon is a late entrant to a market that has been saturated. THAT makes The 'Zon’s performance pretty amazing.

Amazon is also in an entirely different place from Apple & Sammie in that what IT cares about is content not HW sales.

Amazon has a HUGE franchise in e-books to protect and that is best done by marketing an Amazon device. Without such a device, their content is in big, big trouble. With the state of e-ink ereaders in disrepair, THAT means they’ve GOT to have a Fire tablet line that produces.

Add to that their movie studio business that competes with NetFlix ONLY because of its tablet customer base and they have even more incentive.

Apple & Sammie have NONE of those restrictions. The result is that Amazon should continue to own the low-priced tablet segment from here to eternity because they’re willing to play with margins that their competition isn’t and cannot even hope to match.

So is Fire destined to be only a low-priced brand? Not necessarily. Once they get name recognition, they’ll probably meet with more success on their higher-priced brands as well.

The Fire 8.9 HDX is two years old and still is one of the best tablets out there in terms of specs.

The net net on this is that Amazon will own at least part of the tablet segment for years to come and will increasingly challenge in the other segments. That’s because they have an incentive to do so and, quite frankly, failure is not an option for them.

jjj February 2, 2016 um 8:19 am

They are wrong about Amazon not keeping it’s sales strong.
Their new 7 incher at 50$ is what boosted sales and will support them going forward. They even had huge shortages in Q4 and limited geo availability.Q4 wasn’t so much about seasonal trends, it was more about the new model.

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