Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, November 7, 2018
While pundits puzzle and debate, consumers lead the way. Is an iPad a computer, have smartphones replaced other mobile devices, and are PCs dead? Consumers continue to find their own ways and use what they choose, defying definitions, headlines, and experts. From among three dominant operating system ecosystems and three main types of mobile devices, home consumers have found their favorites.
In the US and China, Apple’s home mobile devices – smartphones, notebooks, and tablets – outnumber those using Windows or either Google Android or Chrome. In the UK, Apple and Google are effectively tied in outnumbering Windows on mobile devices. This is based on the latest results from the MetaFacts TUP (Technology User Profile) 2018 study, its 36th annual wave.
There are many ways to be mobile for the many who choose to be. Nearly all online adults use some combination of a home smartphone, home notebook, or home tablet. In the UK and Germany, only 8% and 7%, respectively, don’t use any of the three. In China, nearly one in six (16%) online adults aren’t using one of these three home-owned mobile devices.
Each country has its own preferred combination. In India, having simply a smartphone is the most prevalent combination, representing 28% of adults online. In other countries, this share is nearer to one in five adults.
Germany stands out for having more users concentrated on two combinations than in other countries. Almost a third (30%) of online adults in Germany use a home notebook and home smartphone, and no home tablet. Another 25% also use a home notebook and home smartphone in addition to a home tablet.
Online adults in the UK are distinguished by having a larger-than-average share (22%) using a home smartphone, home tablet, and no home notebook. The US (17%) is closest to the UK with this pairing, and this combination is much less popular in Germany (11%), India (10%), and China (8%).
While smartphones are being included among the devices of mobile adults, there is no single second device – notebook or tablet – paired with the smartphone.
In Germany, the smartphone-notebook combination is being used by the largest number (55%) of online adults. The use of smartphones and tablets is smaller (36%) although still higher than among online adults in China or India.
In India and China, the highest penetration pair is for smartphones and notebooks, in the hands of 41% of online adults in China and 33% of online adults in India. The use of smartphones and tablets is somewhat less, at 31% of online adults in China and 25% of online adults in India.
Online adults in the US and UK have different preferences. The most popular pair is a smartphone and tablet, actively used by 42% of online adults in the UK and 39% in the US. And in the US, as many online adults (39%) use a smartphone and notebook pair.
In the coming year, the partially-mobile are eager to become more mobile in one way or another. Purchase plans are strong for consumers to complete the set of smartphones, tablets, and notebooks.
Overall, smartphones are the strongest device of interest. Smartphone purchase plans are especially strong among those online adults that are already using a home notebook and tablet. Plans are strong, although less so, among those who are only using a home tablet.
Notebook purchase plans are also strong. They are strongest among those who are only using a home tablet. They are also strong among those who aren’t using any of these mobile devices, and for this group, notebook plans are slightly higher than their plans for a smartphone or tablet.
Purchase plans for tablets are lower than those for smartphones or notebooks. The strongest plans almost paint the picture of tablets as an entry-level mobile device, as they’re strongest among online adults who aren’t already using a smartphone, tablet, or notebook. Plans are almost as strong among those only using a notebook, although plans for tablets lag behind plans for smartphones.
For those only using a home smartphone, purchase plans are lowest for either a tablet or notebook.
Looking further ahead
Mobility means many things to consumers – freedom, ease of use, and the ability to do as they’d like, whenever and wherever they’d like.
An internet connection is a vital part of mobility. Mobile device makers have been extending the mobile connection with mobile devices having built-in LTE/cellular capabilities, especially tablets. So far, consumers haven’t fully embraced extending their cellular subscriptions. When they’re less connected, they’re staying nearer to familiar Wi-Fi connections, using a portable hotspot or tethered connection, or reaching for their smartphones.
Another aspect of true mobility is usefulness, and users enjoy some activities more on notebooks or tablets than on smartphones which generally have smaller screens or that don’t have key applications. In other analysis, we profile which activities users choose for their smartphones and which they choose for their notebooks or tablets.
Above all, users are continuing to choose between the many mobile offerings and haven’t settled on a single form factor or combination of mobile devices. Mobility in whatever form will continue to reach an ever-broader number of online adults.
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