European tablet computer sales reached 15.9m units in Q4 2012, representing quarterly growth of 78 per cent and year-on-year growth of 179 per cent, according to the latest quarterly Tablet Track report from Futuresource Consulting.
"Now the final figures are in, our research shows Q4 2012 accounted for nearly one out of every two tablets sold in Europe last year, with the market reaching 35.4m sales for the full year," said Futuresource market analyst, Arun Gill. "Looking across the region, Western Europe accounted for 86 per cent of total European sales in Q4, and 84 per cent for the full year."
Apple remained the market leader and experienced high demand for its 7.9-inch iPad Mini, although limited supply capacity did result in some missed opportunities. Samsung also saw success with a range of new tablets, particularly the competitively-priced Galaxy Tab 2. The release of the Nexus 10 in collaboration with Google may help to challenge Apple's dominance in sales of larger-screened tablets, Futuresource believes.
In the UK, Amazon capitalised on increasing demand for smaller tablets and retained a comfortable market share with the release of its Kindle Fire HD. Asus and Google's Nexus 7 also gained from increasing demand for smaller tablets, and the high sales volumes reflected the assault that cheaper Android tablets are making on Apple's market share.
"A key trend in the second half of 2012 was the emergence of a 'white label' tablet market, comprising of cheap tablets manufactured in China and rebranded for sale both domestically and internationally," added Gill. "Across Europe, around a third of tablet sales in 2012 were for these unbranded Chinese manufactured tablets, with the rest of the sales attributable to the key international branded products.
Futuresource says that the key driver behind the demand for unbranded tablets is price. Across Europe, the average retail price for unbranded tablets in Q4 2012 was €90 (£78), with a basic 7-inch, 8GB and wi-fi-only model retailing for as low as €60. In comparison, the average price for a branded tablet is €433.
Greater availability of smaller and cheaper tablets has led to a decline in the average retail price, which fell 10 per cent to €353. Despite this price erosion, however, Futuresource believes that the overall value of the tablet market will continue to climb, and says that prospects for the industry are extremely positive, with strong growth throughout the forecast period to 2017.