Australian tablet sales doubled in 2013 to reach 4.8 million units sold, as the market enters a new phase driven by the popularity of low-cost devices, according to a study released today by emerging technology analyst firm Telsyte.

According to the report, the population penetration of media tablets reached 40 per cent at the end of 2013, with an estimated 9.4 million Australians using tablets, based on the assumption that the devices are shared within households.

The growing popularity of tablets is impacting on the market share of computers and PCs, with Telsyte predicting that tablet use will overtake computers and PCs by mid-2015, and that usage will reach 22 million Australians by 2018.

The survey also examined how consumers use their tablets, finding that nearly half see it becoming their primary computing device.

“Australians are increasingly seeing their tablets as their main computing device in the home. This shift in preferences is creating new digital opportunities that span consumer services, education and entertainment,” Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said.

Twenty per cent of tablet owners have two or more tablets, according to the survey, and nearly a quarter of the devices were purchased as gifts. Their popularity extends to accessories such as cases and keyboards.

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At the premium end of the market, Apple’s year-on-year sales grew by 52 per cent to 2.6 million units sold in 2013, while Android media tablet sales grew by 186 per cent, with more than 1.9 million devices purchased over the same period.

In a recent interview on the subject of competing with low-cost tablets, Apple’s VP of design, Jony Ive said, “We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care, just like the people who make them.”

Telsyte estimates that the total Australian media tablet market was worth $2.4 billion (retail price) at the end of 2013.

Low to mid-cost android tablets have claimed a prominent position in the market. Telsyte estimates that 29 per cent of units sold in 2013 cost less than $400 and anticipates sales in this price range could account for 50 per cent of tablets sold in the future.

Apple’s market share dropped from 72 per cent in 2012 to 55 per cent in 2013, despite introducing the iPad mini with retina display and iPad Air.

According to the most recent GfK Temax report on the Australian Consumer Goods market, the shift to smaller, low-spec models led to a year-on-year decline in fourth quarter sales in tablets, despite the boost in the volume sales.

“During the quarter, tablets purchased at less than $100 accounted for 20 per of sales units, compared with only 5 per cent in quarter 4, 2012. Similarly, the share held by models with a screen size smaller than 9 inches has more than doubled, to account for over half of unit sales,” the report stated.