Amazon’s Kindle Fire giving Android tablets a boost

Few may have envisioned that an ultra-cheap tablet sold by the most popular online retailer in the world would be successful. 

And yet Amazon’s Kindle Fire finds itself in just such a situation, according to estimates from Jordan Rohan, an analyst from Stifel Nicolaus. In a note to investors, Rohan said that Amazon sold an estimated 6 million Kindle Fires in the fourth quarter of 2011, revised upward from the 5 million units that Rohan had previously projected.

Even so, the Kindle Fire on its own was no match for Apple’s iPad, which sold more than 15 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011. The iPad’s dominance in the tablet market has been well-documented as Strategy Analytics last week estimated that the iPad accounted for 57.6 per cent of all tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011. 

By while the iPad is still the big dog in the tablet market, the Kindle Fire has helped Android tablets make a dent in Apple’s market share, as Strategy Analytics found that Android tablets accounted for 39.1 per cent of all tablet shipments in Q4 2011. While this puts Android tablets well behind Apple’s market share, it does represent a big leap from Q4 2010, when Android tablets accounted for just 29 per cent of all tablet shipments. 

Neil Mawston, the executive director at Strategy Analytics, said last week the growth of Android tablets has been very similar to the growth of Android-based smartphones, as multiple vendors have all come out with their own versions of tablets that run on Google’s free-to-use mobile operating system. 

“Dozens of Android models distributed across multiple countries by numerous brands such as Amazon, Samsung, Asus and others have been driving volumes,” he said. “Android is so far proving to be relatively popular with tablet manufacturers despite nagging concerns about fragmentation of Android’s operating system, user-interface and app store ecosystem.”

Google has attempted to address fragmentation complaints on its Android devices with the release of Android 4.0 (a.k.a., “Ice Cream Sandwich“), the first version of the Android platform that’s designed to run the same on both tablets and smartphones.

The operating system also comes with several new features, including a lock screen that can unlock using facial recognition software; Android Beam, technology that lets users send contact information, directions, Web pages and more via NFC by tapping their phones together; and integration with the Google+ social network that lets users host online video chats among their circles of friends.

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