Home printer trends in the US [TUPdate]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, February 25, 2021

Home printer penetration trend

Home printers remain a part of home computing if less core than five years ago. Only two years ago, in 2018, there was a noticeable drop in overall home printer usage levels, as the penetration rate fell to two-thirds of online adults from nearly three in four only two years earlier. Since that time, the rate has stabilized and even slightly increased. As of TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, 70% of online American adults regularly use a home printer.

Home printer pages trend

Overall penetration numbers only reveal part of the trend. TUP also measures the number of pages people print per month. This measure – mean monthly pages per month – has subsided over the last few years to rebound in 2020 slightly. In TUP/Technology User Profile 2015, we found that the average home printer printed 38.6 pages per month. By 2019 this had dropped to 31.8 pages and increased to 34.5 in TUP 2020.

Home printer activity shifts

Consumers do not use home printers as they did in the past. Between 2016 and 2020, nearly every type of home printing activity has shrunk. The five most-used activities are personal records (47% of online adults using a home printer), documents/web pages (43%), coupons (41%), recipes (34%), and letters (34%). Except for personal records, none of these top activities have increased in usage. One of the activities that shrunk the most – printing maps/directions – may not be a surprise as map-enabled smartphones have grown into widespread use. At the same time, it may be surprising that more than a fourth (27%) of online Americans still occasionally print maps/directions with their home printers.

Home printer pages – are kids saving printing?

Households with children consistently print more pages than those without children. However, the shift in printing levels varies more widely year to year among those with children than those without children. In TUP 2020, printing levels among households with children grew to levels they had been in 2016. From 2017 through 2019, overall printing levels declined, dropping to the lowest level since 2015. Declines reversed somewhat in 2020, returning to 2016 levels for all.

Home printer pages by age group

In 2019, it was beginning to look like the most prolific printer users – those aged 25-44 – were losing interest. Simultaneously, it looked like younger adults – age 18-24 – may never grow into being active printer users. In 2019, printing levels dropped among all age groups, especially among adults aged 25-44.

Now it looks like printing levels are following adults as they age, likely reflecting ingrained habits. In 2020, there was a rebound in printing among adults 35-44, 45-54, and to some extent 55-64.

Younger adults are not printing like their nearest elders, but more like their eldest elders.

Home printer ink subscription rates by printer brand

Printer manufacturers expanded on a service business model with ink subscriptions, and uptake has been moderate. Among the major brands, fewer than one in four home printer users regularly use a home printer ink subscription plan. Canon currently has the highest percentage usage, with 23% of adults with a Canon home printer having an ink subscription plan. Brother and HP have comparable usage rates, while Epson trails at 15%. However, with HP’s larger share, this translates to HP having twice as many subscribers as Canon, three times as many as Brother, and more than five times as many as Epson.

Looking ahead

Home printing has been declared dead as many times as there have been predictions of the paperless office. Meanwhile, the majority of consumers continue to incorporate printing into their everyday technology lives. The centricity of printing, however, continues to be threatened.

Photo albums with personal photo prints have faded away as a widespread keepsake. Self-made books with family recipes never gained broad use. Today’s home printer users’ main demands are sporadic yet vital – coupons, tickets, and personal records. To the extent Americans continue to work from home, home printers will continue to be called into service along with home PCs and smartphones for work-related activities.

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