Getting things done – The primary device from PCs to smartphones [TUPdate]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, March 28, 2020

Getting things done. Isn’t it one of the main explanations we offer when we’re buying our tech devices?

While much of actual tech device usage is about entertainment, communication, and shopping, productivity has its solid place in everyday use.

Whether using a PC, smartphone, tablet, or some combination, the majority of connected adults turn to their devices for everything from scheduling appointments to calling on a voice assistant. Based on our TUP/Technology User Profile 2017 US survey wave, 88% of connected adults regularly use one of their connected devices for any of a range of productivity activities.

Mobility is the key to productivity activities

Having one’s device handy is key for productivity-oriented people. The majority of productivity activities are regularly done using a mobile device – a notebook, tablet, or mobile phone. This focus on mobility has remained relatively constant over the last few years, representing over two-thirds of the primary productivity devices.

PCs as dominant device type for productivity

Americans use a PC of some kind for most of their productivity activities. This majority position has withered over the last two years, declining slightly from 54% and 55% of adults to the 51% mark in 2017.

During that same time period, more adults have made the switch from basic cell phones to Smartphones. This has helped mobile phones to increase their share as the favored productivity device, rising to second-place with 41% of adults.

Smartphone surpass desktops as a preference for productivity

Diving more deeply into the TUP data, and looking at connected devices in a more detailed view, smartphones emerge as the major productivity device. Even looking at desktops versus smartphones by combining tower desktops with all-in-one desktops, the year 2017 marks the first time that smartphones outnumber desktops as the preferred productivity device. In 2016, TUP showed that 37% of the primary productivity devices are desktops to 34% for smartphones. In 2017, this shifted to 33% desktops and 39% smartphones.

Voice assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, are one of the major productivity activities which have grown in usage, especially on smartphones. For those users who primarily use a smartphone for most of their productivity, 57% use a voice assistant at least monthly, a level which is 44% higher than the national average. They’re also 30% or more higher than average to be using their smartphone to manage tasks/to-do items, their personal or work calendar, store their contacts, and to save and play voice memos.

Notebooks, on the other hand, are making a gradual retreat as the productivity device of choice. These still stand out, however, for being above average for certain activities among those who favor their notebooks for productivity. Several productivity activities which are done on notebooks at 25% or more above average: collaborating on work or personal files, finances/accounting, write/manage text/notes/documents, download/use/update anti-virus/security software, and adblocking software. Yes, the productivity-oriented are more likely than average to block ads and get back to work.

For productivity-primary desktop PCs, however, only two productivity activities stand out above average in their regular use: download/use/update anti-virus/security software, and adblocking software. Although these two activities do reduce interruptions, they aren’t particularly productive. This indicates that desktops are likely to continue their slide from primacy for productivity. They’ll either be consigned to other types of activities or be overtaken by notebooks or tablets.

Looking ahead

Although habits change slowly, they do change. Even as users move between multiple devices, it takes time for them to migrate their behaviors from one way of doing things to another. Apps that have versions that support platforms can ease the user’s migration between devices. By simultaneously supporting multiple platforms, the app makers can also make it easier for users to get things done among their own collection of devices, further supporting the user’s own choices.

About TUPdates

These results are based on results of the MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile survey, from 2015 through 2017.

TUPdates feature analysis of current or essential technology topics. The research results showcase the TUP/Technology User Profile study, MetaFacts’ survey of a representative sample of online adults profiling the full market’s use of technology products and services. The current wave of TUP is TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, which is TUP’s 38th annual. TUPdates may also include results from previous waves of TUP.

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