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iPads and low-end rivals propel higher tablet shipments: report

A salesperson unpacks an Apple iPad Mini to test it for a customer in the Apple specialty section of a Croma retail store in Mumbai February
A salesperson unpacks an Apple iPad Mini to test it for a customer in the Apple specialty section of a Croma retail store in Mumbai February

By Noel Randewich

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Global tablet shipments more than doubled in the first quarter and while Apple remained the top seller, Asian manufacturers making low-end gadgets accounted for a major chunk of the growth, according to a report.

Tablet shipments reached 49.2 million units in the January-to-March period, 142.4 percent more than in the same quarter in 2012, market research firm IDC said on Wednesday. Apple's iPads accounted for 19.5 million units, an increase of 65.3 percent.

Samsung Electronics, Asus, Amazon Inc and Microsoft all grew their tablet shipments and eked out market share gains against Apple.

But the biggest jump in market share came from other Asian manufacturers churning out inexpensive devices sold globally to customers including Staples, Toys R Us, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba, IDC analyst Ryan Reith told Reuters.

"There's no question the growth is at the low end of the market," Reith said. "It's 80 to 100 vendors distributing no-name brands across the world - and those are just the ones we can get a sense of."

Those devices are almost all based on Google's Android platform, have 7-inch displays and are powered by no-frills processors from Asian chipmakers like Rockchip and Allwinner Technology, Reith said, adding they often wholesale for less than $60 each.

Shipments of tablets outside the top five vendors surged to 15.5 million units in the first quarter and accounted for nearly a third of the market, up from a quarter of the market a year ago, according to the report.

That growth helped push the market share of tablets running Android higher than Apple's iOS platform for the first time. Android tablets accounted for 56.5 percent of shipments in the March quarter, compared to 39.6 percent for iPads. Tablets running Microsoft's new Windows and Windows RT platforms accounted for 3.7 percent of total shipments.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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