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The truth about tablets: Our report into how consumers are really using their devices today
The discourse around tablets this year has been largely bad news — the iPad is done, tablet sales are falling — but still many of the…
The discourse around tablets this year has been largely bad news — the iPad is done, tablet sales are falling — but still many of the people we speak to tell us how they love using their iPads. In the pursuit of answers to what’s really happening in the world of tablets, we conducted research to find out how people are using their devices today and what businesses should be doing about it.
by Sorcha Daly, Associate, Wilson Fletcher
The treatment of different devices when designing new products and services is one of the most common questions we’re asked when talking to organisations of all stripes. From publishers wondering about their iPad editions, data companies asking how people really consume information and broadcasters questioning whether people have become truly device agnostic, everybody wants to know if and where they should be investing in designing for different devices, especially when it comes to the tablet.
Apple’s recent campaigns pitch their iPad as something with which you can do anything. Deep sea diving! Playing a gig! Writing a score! Climbing Everest! Travelling the world! Diagnosing brain injuries! By fielding a campaign that relates to, well, edge cases, Apple are both pitching the device as a desirable, aspirational object for the adventurous and creative, but also conceding that the function of the iPad isn’t as clear cut as it once was.
The very first campaigns showed iPads in a context that helped the device instantly make sense — in the lap, being read. But now that it’s no longer unimaginable for somebody to read a 2,000 word article on their phone — or even, we might find, on a watch — the position of the tablet as the reading device has been called into question.
Cut to 2015 and every day we’re hit by a new article damning the iPad to the digital scrapheap along with the fax machine, pager and minidisc player. Well-reported stats show that Apple sold 15% fewer iPads in 2014 compared with the previous year, while tablet sales overall were slightly down. Tablets were noticeably little represented at this year’s Mobile World Congress conference as common consensus would have you believe that the market is saturated.
With market analysts condemning the future of tablets, we thought it was a good time to talk to people about how they’re really using theirs. We surveyed 350 tablet users to find out how they’re using different devices today.
1. People are still using their tablets.
Has the way you use your tablet changed over the last year?
22% of tablet owners questioned said they’ve been using their tablets less over the last year. It’s a healthy percentage, but doesn’t tell the story that has been widely reported that would have you believe that tablets are out of favour. By comparison, 32% of our sample say they’re using their tablets more than they were this time last year.
2. Tablets are luxury household items.
Which device would you choose to rely on solely for one week?
Where do you most use your tablet?
Only 10% of our sample selected their tablet as the hero device that they’d choose to use above all others. The tablet seems to occupy a middling space: halfway in size and functionality between a phone and laptop. But the phone is clearly the soulmate device for most people, with 72% selecting it as their chosen device. The tablet doesn’t have the can’t-live-without demand that phones still clearly do. Perhaps that’s because for an overwhelming 86%, it’s a device that’s used in the home.
3. A device for down time.
What is your most used application on your tablet?
The three applications named as respondents’ top used on their tablets were browser apps (36%), social media (23%) and email apps (14%). Only one of our sample said named Office applications as their most used, with the overwhelming majority of selections showing that tablets are devices for down time rather than productivity.
4. Fewer people are buying tablets, but maybe that’s because they don’t need to.
Which device do you plan on buying over the next six months?
Buying a new device usually relies on a three-figure investment, and 41% of our sample aren’t planning on making any new purchases in the next six months. Of those who are, 26% plan on buying a new phone, 13% plan on buying a new laptop and 12% are looking to buy a new tablet. But still, this means that 21% of our sample who were planning on making a purchase said they were looking to buy a new tablet, which is no measly figure.
5. The tablet is not a mobile device.
Which device is your most used at home?
Just in case anybody was still classing tablets as mobile devices, the word from our sample is that they are clearly a device for the home. An overwhelming 86% say that they most use their tablet at home. Still, it’s competing for attention at home from the phone, which for 38% is the hero device for the home, compared with the tablet’s 34%.
6. Facebook is the most popular network for social tableters.
Which social network do you most use on your tablet?
For those who use their tablets for social media, Facebook is the network of choice, with Instagram and Twitter following far behind. However, the phone is overwhelmingly the device for social media. 87% of our sample use their phones for social media, compared with 63% who use their tablets.
7. Freelancers and retired people are more wedded to their tablets than those in employment.
Which device would you choose to rely on solely for one week?
25% of our sample who are either freelancing or retired chose their tablets as their preferred device to use exclusively for a week, compared with only 7% of those in employment. One respondent even remarked: “I use my tablet more since retirement.” It follows that the device for the home is used more by those who spend most time at home. Is there an opportunity here to target tablet-based applications at these user groups?