Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire has managed to become the first tablet based on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system to see demonstrable application usage in a short period, suggesting that the 7-inch slate has become quite the content driver for the e-commerce giant.
The tablet, which only launched Nov. 15, has already matched the Samsung Galaxy Tab in application usage by an Android tablet, according to mobile analytics firm Flurry.
Before the Fire launched in November, the Galaxy Tab comprised 63 percent of Android app sessions. Yet through January, the Galaxy Tab and Kindle Fire each accounted for 36 percent of app usage, showing the Fire paired with Amazon's Appstore has proved to be popular among consumers.
Flurry also looked at data from five popular paid apps and found that the Kindle Fire drove over 2.5 times more paid downloads to consumers than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has at least twice as many active units in the real world as the Fire.
"This shows that for tablets, the Amazon Appstore can already deliver more direct revenue to developers than the Android Market," noted Flurry, which tracks tens of thousands of Android apps, covering over 20 percent of all consumer sessions on more than 90 percent of all Android devices each day.
These are telling stats at a time when analysts have all but written off Android tablets as non-starters in a young tablet market that industry watchers have taken to calling the iPad market.
Indeed, one of the reasons Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has crushed the nascent Android slate market in market share and application usage is that consumers don't have enough compelling content or applications to access via Google's Android Market. There are only about 200 or so Android apps designed for tablets based on the Android Honeycomb operating system.
The findings are drenched in irony. Google launched Honeycomb nearly a year ago with the belief that the software would be powerful enough to challenge the popular iPad.
Yet Google never open-sourced Honeycomb, and developers were cool on writing for that branch of Android, even as the smartphone branch became the most popular OS platform in the world. Indeed, Google expected the hardware and OS to sell itself, but it never happened to the point that Google expected it to.
Seizing on this dearth in tablet traffic, Amazon came out of nowhere to offer a $199 tablet--less than half of existing tablets. Moreover, the company eschewed Honeycomb to "fork," or customize, its own Android build, and sold apps through its own Appstore instead of the Android Market.
The successful approach has led RBC Capital analysts to claim Amazon makes $136 from content and service per Kindle Fire unit.
Now Flurry is looking at the Fire as possibly the rising tide the lifts all boats in the Android tablet market. "Total Android tablet sessions in January more than tripled over November, with Galaxy Tab sessions increasing by more than 50 percent," Flurry noted. "Overall, Android tablets are growing aggressively as a category."
This appears to be true, according to recent data culled from Strategy Analytics, which found that Android's tablet market share rose from 29 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to 39 percent by Q4. Conversely, iPad market share fell from 68 percent to 58 percent over the same period.