Thursday, February 9, 2012

New Mobile Devices are Changing Behavior

Wireless and untethered devices are starting to change the ways people interact with, and consume, all sorts of media and content.

In 2011, the majority of all mobile phone owners consumed mobile media on their smart phones and tablet devices, marking an important milestone in the evolution of mobile from primarily a communication device to a content consumption tool. At the end of 2011, more than eight percent of all digital traffic was consumed beyond the “classic web” across devices such as smart phones and tablets.  Content consumption is the big change

To put the rapid uptake of tablets in perspective, it took seven years to reach nearly 40 million smart phones compared to less than two years to reach nearly 40 million tablets, demonstrating the vast appeal of these devices and consumers’ desire for connection.

It would not be stretching matters to argue that widespread adoption of smart phones and now tablets has significantly changed digital media consumption patterns.

In December 2011, 8.2 percent of all web page views occurred on devices other than PCs, for example, with mobile devices accounting for 5.2 percent of traffic, tablets driving 2.5 percent.

Americans spend more than 33 hours per week watching video across their available screens, according to the latest Nielsen Cross-Platform Report.

The shift to wireless (using the mobile networks) and connected devices (using Wi-Fi) also seems to be accelerating. It is no secret that sales volumes in consumer electronics and computing devices now have shifted strongly to smart phones, tablets and e-readers, and away from PCs.

As but one example, PC shipments in Western Europe totaled 16.3 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 16 per cent decline from the same period of 2010, according to Gartner.

For the full year, PC shipments also declined 16 percent from 2010, dropping for four straight quarters.

"Despite aggressive pricing and special holiday deals for PCs, consumers' attention was caught by other devices, such as smart phones, media tablets and e-readers," said Meike Escherich, principal analyst at Gartner. And those devices are changing the way people behave.

One of Google’s studies of tablet use over a two-week period, which had users recording every occasion that they used their tablet, shows that tablets really are not PCs, any more than smart phones are used in the same way that PCs are used.

Most consumers use their tablets for fun, entertainment and relaxation while they use their desktop computer or laptop for work, Google User Experience Researchers Jenny Gove and John Webb say. About 91 percent of the time that people spend on their tablet devices is for personal rather than work related activities.

And, as it turns out, when a consumer gets a tablet,  they quickly migrate many of their entertainment activities from laptops and smart phones to this new device.

The most frequent tablet activities are checking email, playing games and social networking. The study also found that people are doing more activities in shorter bursts on weekdays (social networking, email) while engaging in longer usage sessions on weekends (watching videos/TV/movies).

Tablets are multi-tasking devices with at least 42 percent of activities occurring while doing another task or engaging with another entertainment medium. Tablets aren't PCs

As it turns out, lots of things people can do on PCs don’t “need” to be done on PCs. Content consumption, email and other communications actually represent most of what many business users really “have to do” on a PC.

Also, tablets are more accurately described as “untethered” devices than “mobile” devices, to the extent that tablets primarily are used at home. Unlike smart phones that go everywhere and laptops that travel between work and home, few consumers take their tablets with them when they leave the house.

That shipments of tablets are expected to grow from 72.7 million units in 2011 to 383.3 million units by 2017, according to NPD, would not surprise many observers.

Growth in emerging markets, expected to account for up to 46 percent of worldwide shipments by 2017, an increase from the 36 percent share in 2011, might be more surprising.

The tablet forecast also illustrates an important change in connected appliance trends. In the past, “PCs” have been one category of appliances, while MP-3 players, phones and digital organizers, game devices, cameras and e-reading devices have been distinctly different categories.

These days, many of those devices have overlapping functions. Taken as a whole, the changes suggest the crucial role “content consumption” now plays as a lead application for most devices. Though PCs, cameras and organizers still largely have “work or business” use cases, virtually all the other devices are oriented around content consumption.

If results of a U.K. consumer poll are any indication, tablet PCs are about to change Web browsing, gaming and reading preferences.

According to survey conducted by Cooper Murphy Webb, Apple’s iPad is the preferred method of reading newspapers and magazines among consumers already owning the device. Tablets change behavior

The poll also found that a plurality of iPad owners prefer the device for reading books and gaming. Perhaps surprisingly, respondents indicated they used their dedicated gaming consoles and iPads about equally when gaming. If that holds up, it could mean trouble for game console suppliers.

And a significant percentage prefer the iPad for Web browsing as well. That finding is less surprising, if one assumes the tablet device is designed to be used as a content consumption device.

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