Apple Still Top In Tablets: Research

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - The tech giant might be number two in global smartphone sales, but Apple ( AAPL) remains in first place when it comes to tablets.

According to the latest numbers from tech research firm IDC, Apple iPads are still the number one choice of consumers worldwide. As a matter of fact, they kept their top standing as actual tablet shipments outpaced predictions and peaked at 52.5 million total units in the fourth quarter of 2012. That's an increase of more than 75% over the fourth quarter of 2011.

According to preliminary data, Apple sold 22.9 million tablets in the fourth quarter thanks to the new iPad mini and fourth-generation version of the larger iPad. That's up more than 48% year-over-year.

While sales grew, though, Apple's market share actually declined due to added competition from Google ( GOOG) Android-based devices from Samsung, Amazon ( AMZN) and Barnes & Noble ( BKS). Apple's market share declined to 43.6% from 46.4% sequentially.

Samsung was way back in second place with 7.9 million units shipped for a 15.1% market share. But the company's tablet shipments grew 263% year over year.

In third place is Amazon. The online retailer's Kindle hardware accounted for 6 million units shipped and a market share of 11.5%. Amazon sold almost 27% more Kindles than the prior year's quarter.

Taiwan's Asus is in fourth place with 3.1 million units shipped (5.8% share) - up nearly 6% over the fourth quarter of 2011. Barnes & Noble posted shipments of 1 million tablets (nearly 2% share), down almost 28% on the prior year's quarter.

According to IDC, Microsoft's ( MSFT) Surface tablets, which run on new Windows 8 software, "failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best."

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.