Analyzing tablet data as it comes out on a quarterly basis can sometimes paint an opaque picture as to who's gaining and who's losing in the space -- not to mention that much of the time reports calculate shipment market share instead of actual usage or sales of devices. So to clear up the current tablet marketplace standings, let's take a look at actual tablet usage for 10 months of 2013 to see which companies are coming out ahead. Spoiler alert: It's Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) .
The iPad is still dominating usage stats
Analytics company Mixpanel used millions of tablet record data between February and December of this year to calculate that Apple holds the lead over Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) in the tablet space. You'll see from the graph below that Apple grabs five out of the top six tablet usage spots, and even the three-year-old first-generation iPad made it to the top six spot.
It's also important to mention that the Samsung Galaxy Note usage numbers include the Note, Note II, Note 3, Note 8.0, and Note 10.1. So while Samsung managed to take the No. 2 spot in usage, it did so using five versions of its tablet.
Samsung and Google are obviously huge competitors to Apple, and Samsung has made lots of inroads in the tablet industry, but the graph shows that the two companies still have a long way to go in tackling Apple's dominance. This matches up with Mixpanel data released in October that showed iOS made up 67% of tablet usage, while Android took just 33%.
Aside from Apple's dominant usage numbers this year, the recent release of the iPad Air should keep Apple ahead of Samsung and Google going into 2014. Since its launch, users have adopted the iPad Air at a faster rate than they did the iPad 4. Carriers have experienced iPad Air success as well. AT&T (NYSE: T ) saw its iPad activations triple with the iPad Air compared to the previous iPad's launch weekend.
Though usage statistics and adoption rates aren't equal to sales, it's important for investors to measure how quickly new products like the Air are being adopted and how iPad models stack up to their competitors' usage. Apple not only makes a significant amount of revenue from its tablets -- the Air has estimated profit margins between 45% and 61% -- but also from app purchases. The higher the usage numbers, the more likely iPad users are to be purchasing apps and services that Apple can earn revenue from. One thing Apple investors should continue to watch going into 2014 is for reports of how the iPad Air was received over the holiday season. Apple traditionally has solid fourth-quarter iPad sales, and hopefully this year won't disappoint.
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