Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, February 17, 2017
Which comes first – Smartphone? Tablet? Notebook? For a small and steadily growing segment, the tablet comes first as the primary connected device.
Over the last three years, the share of connected adults using a tablet as their primary device has expanded. In our 2014 wave of TUP, we found that 6% of adults were using a tablet as their primary device – before a PC, mobile phone, or game console. In TUP 2015, the tablet-first rate had grown to 7% and by TUP 2016, reached 9%.
It’s not as if these tablet-first users are only using a tablet. Among tablet-first users, half (50%) use a smartphone as their secondary device, followed distantly by a tower desktop (15%), basic cell phone (10%), and notebook PC (9%).
Tablets are also popular as second devices, with 17% of connected adults regularly using one as their secondary device. Half (50%) of these tablets-second users have a smartphone as their primary device, followed by a tower desktop (23%), and notebook PC (15%).
Who are these tablet-first users?
Older women use a tablet as their primary device at a higher rate than other age/gender groups. Females age 35 and up have a higher tablet-first rate than any other gender/age group.
Besides age or gender distinctions, tablet-first users aren’t especially technology early adopters or laggards, nor are they primarily lower socioeconomic groups which might be thought to not be able to afford notebooks or smartphones.
Tablet-first users do skew slightly higher among adults with less-than-average educational attainment, with 23% having a high school education or lower, somewhat higher than the 19% rate among connected adults.
Looking more deeply at how older women use tablets differently from younger women or other men, another pattern stands out. Older women use tablets for a broader range of activities than other age/gender groups. They simply get more out of these devices. This includes any tablet they use – not only the ones used as the primary device.
Analyzing the top-third most-broadly-active by the user’s number of tablet activities by age and gender groups, females age 45 to 64 stand out. They are 24% higher than the national average than other age/gender groups based on how many activities they regularly do with their tablets. In contrast, males 65+ and 25-34 have the lowest levels of broad usage, indexing at only 75 or lower.
What other devices do they use?
Tablet-first users may choose to primarily use their tablet, yet most have other devices. Three-fourths of tablet-first users regularly use a PC, and over three-fourths (77%) regularly use a smartphone. They have other mobile devices, such as a notebook (42%) or a home notebook (36%). Another 36% have a second PC.
The clear majority of tablet-first users have more devices than their tablet – 99% have 2 or more. Eight-five percent have 3 or more connected devices they regularly use.
What are these tablet-first tablets used for?
The users of tablets as their primary device are busy with their tablets, checking email, shopping, having fun, and social networking. Over half of adults using a tablet as their primary device regularly use it for a wide range of activities. While checking personal email ranks at the top, shopping is nearly as strong.
What’s notably absent from the list of major activities are more-intensive productivity or graphical activities such as creating presentations. Instead, many of the major activities can be adequately done with a tablet that may or may not have an external keyboard.
Whose tablet is used first more than others?
Apple’s iPad is the undisputed leader among the tablet-first group, representing 57% of the installed base. The nearest contender is Samsung, with only a 10% share. Although Microsoft may begin to make inroads with their recently revamped Surface line, the current share is only 3%.
Several aspects stand out from these results. While age-affected eyesight may contribute to older adults preferring devices with larger screens, it’s not as simple as age. So, I don’t expect tablet-makers to rush out to build ever-larger tablets as the population ages. It’s only among females that tablet-first rates are highest, not among males. Also, when separating genders, rates don’t increase with age. The choice of activities is a big factor, as simple activities from online shopping to game playing and social networking are easily done with a tablet and each benefit from having a larger screen.
Definitionally, the market is likely to get muddied for regular consumers. As notebook companies continue to innovate with convertible and 2-in-1 designs, the fuller functionality of notebooks is being integrated into devices as mobile as tablets. Furthermore, smartphone makers continue to experiment with larger screens. Also, Apple continues to position its popular iPad as a fully-functional “Super. Computer.” computing device.
For these tablet-first users, though, who appear to be functioning well with a broad collection of devices, it seems unlikely that one single device will capture their hearts and fingers.
About this TUPdate
These results are based on the most-recent results of the MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile 2016 survey, its 34th wave, with 7,334 respondents (US).
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