Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, November 7, 2019
Printing at home has changed in recent years. Printer manufacturers continue to innovate in order to compete and encourage broad active printer use.
This TUPdate looks at the major trends in home printing in the US, and examines how users have changed in both what they print and their volume of printing. Also, it examines printing trends with respect to the broadened use of mobile devices. Further, it looks into whether younger adults print more or less than older ones, and whether presence of children makes a difference.
The source for this analysis is MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile, with results from waves 2015 through 2019, all based on surveys of from 7,326 to 8,060 online adults in the US.
Home printer penetration
The majority of online adults in the US use a home printer, although market penetration has dropped over the last two years.
In 2019, 68% of online adults in the US actively use a home printer. This is effectively the same level as in 2018 – 67%. However, this share had been a stable 73% between 2015 to 2017.
The decline has been driven by substitutes, primarily increased use mobile devices
Home printer page volume has declined
While the penetration of home printers has dropped slowly then stabilized, the number of pages being printed has dropped faster.
The average number of pages printed per month has dropped from 38.6 per month in 2015 to 31.8 in 2019, a reduction of nearly 20%.
Mobile substitutes for printing
One of the biggest contributors to the decline in printing – the mass move to mobile platforms. Americans are increasingly using their smartphones to find their way instead of printing maps or directions. That change is happening surely yet slowly.
It may surprise many digital natives that as many as 43.7 million Americans still occasionally print maps/directions.
Meanwhile, photo printing, once the darling of home printing, has also declined substantially. In 2019, 34.2 million adults print photos with their home printers, as steep decline since 2016 levels of 48.1 million Americans. Sharing photos in person on their mobile device or over social networks has risen in popularity.
Home printing has also subsided for customarily work-related documents such as reports and presentations. This is due in part to employers increasingly moving their communications to electronic formats.
One surprise – printing photos from tablets has decreased, even while tablet use has steadily increased. Also, mobile users are becoming more comfortable with printing directly from their smartphone or tablet. The decline is due in large part to the ongoing decline in printing photos at all, regardless of device.
Shifts in major home printer activities
The top home printer activity is coupons, currently an activity of 65.6 million US adults. This is slightly lower than several years ago, in 2016, where this activity was occasionally done by 68.8 million Americans.
Meanwhile printing tickets has quickly risen from being done by 38.6 million adults in 2016 to 52.4 in 52.4 in 2019.
Home printing and presence of children
One group that historically prints more than average are adults with children in the household. Whether it’s printing homework, photos, or greeting cards, these households are simply busier with their technology.
Households with children continue to print more than those without, although this rate has dropped recently. Between 2017 and 2019, the average number of pages printed by adults with children has dropped from more than 50 pages per month to just over 40.
Are younger digital natives responsible for less printing?
No. The youngest adults (18-24) are printing as much as ever, and currently more than most older adults.
The largest drop in print volume is among adults age 25 to 44.
How are printer manufacturers innovating?
Convenience is key. Ink subscription services make it easier for home printer users to keep their printers ready. Wireless connections facilitate printing from PCs as well as smartphones and tablets. Touch screens and preview screens give users more control. Voice assistants allow for hands-off capabilities.
Expanded use: Multi-function printers include scanning capabilities
Ink subscription plans
Overall, 19% of online adults in the US subscribe to an ink replacement plan for their home printer.
Not all home printers are used equally
Wireless connections dominate active use. Wi-Fi connections allow printing from PCs throughout a home as well as those nearby the printer.
Printing from a smartphone are tablet are used, although at a much lower rate than penetration of those devices. Bluetooth printing is hardly used.
Scanning is widespread.
Remote printing is very low.
Voice assistant use is almost nonexistent.
Active features by brand
Epson stands out for having the most unique set of features actively used, each being used more often than by the users of other home printer brands.
Home printer volume by brand
What’s ahead for home printers?
Home printers will continue to have a place in US homes for many years, even as their activity levels may shrink. The top current printing activities, coupons and tickets, will be replaced slowly over time as consumers become more comfortable with having secure documents on their smartphones or tablets.
Personal records and incidental web pages will likely linger, as consumers continue to value having hard copy archival copies for safekeeping. Even though it might be argued that electronic cloud storage is more secure, the majority of users are only slowly understanding that.
Home printers will be retained and renewed, if only for the convenience of having one around just in case it is needed.
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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