Is the BlackBerry PlayBook really the most popular tablet in the UK?

Is the BlackBerry PlayBook really the most popular tablet in the UK?

The British are often lauded for their unique takes on fashion and style, and for their ability to laugh at themselves, but choosing RIM's much maligned BlackBerry PlayBook over an Apple, Google or Samsung tablet might be taking things a little too far.

Yet, according to UK technology sales and price tracking company Context, which monitored sales and distribution channels over November and December 2012, that is exactly what has happened. RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook outperformed Google's Nexus 7 and all of Samsung's tablets, selling 160,000 units. Even more impressive is that it also outperformed the all-conquering iPad, which according to Context's data only sold 113,000 units. When the figures for all iPad variations (fourth generation, iPad 2 and iPad Mini) were combined, Apple had a slight lead, selling 203,000 tablets in total, but nevertheless the Playbook's performance is not only impressive, it's more than a little surprising, even factoring in the British penchant for eccentricity.

One reason for this performance could be the price. Though initially marketed as a premium device, the tablet's average UK retail price is now £129 (about US$205), making it cheaper than any of its rivals. In terms of price, the only comparable tablet is the Amazon Kindle Fire, for which, due to company policy, sales figures are never released. Meanwhile, the cheapest iPad Mini is £269. It is also worth highlighting that the majority of Apple's sales come via its territory-specific websites and its flagship London retail store, for which Context would not have been able to gather data.

Yet if the figures for the PlayBook are correct, it will mean that within the space of two months, RIM sold more than half the 255,000 tablets it shipped in total in Q3 of 2012. And, despite the criticisms the device received upon its launch, the current configuration of the tablet is much improved. PC World's annual reader satisfaction survey, published in December, polled 45,000 site users about the reliability and performance of their desktop PC, laptops, smartphones, tablets and peripherals. The RIM BlackBerry PlayBook came fourth, just one place behind Apple in third. Overall, owners were very happy with the product and in category-specific tables it actually came top for the quality of its display, beating not only Apple, but Samsung and Asus (maker of the Nexus 7) too, while it was ranked fourth for speed and design and joint second for battery life. What's more, it is currently the only non-Microsoft tablet with a native Office app.