The iPad is already making its mark in the Wi-Fi world. In its first month on the market, the Apple tablet accounted for 1.5% of all ad requests on the Wi-Fi-powered mobile ad network of JiWire, which reaches about 20 million unique consumers monthly.
"When you think of all the devices people are connecting with, that's a pretty good showing within 30 days of rolling out for any device," said David Staas, senior vice president of marketing at JiWire. As a comparison, he added that about 7% of users connect to its network via netbooks, a device category that Apple is aiming to cut into with the iPad.
A study released by Morgan Stanley last week suggests that the iPad poses a serious threat to netbook sales, which had already slowed significantly in recent months. Netbook sales peaked last summer at 647% year-over-year growth, but have dwindled to just 5% in April, when the iPad hit stores.
JiWire's own quarterly usage study found that 23% of its audience outside the home plans to buy the iPad. Within that group, 40% don't currently own another Apple device and 24% own BlackBerry phones. "It will be very interesting to see whether [the iPad] is a replacement device or a complementary device," said Staas.
For JiWire, the iPad is also a natural fit, as Apple wireless partner AT&T has said it expects most people to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi rather than its 3G network. Apple recently released a 3G version of the iPad after initially selling a Wi-Fi-only model. The company announced that 1 million iPads overall had been sold in the first 28 days after launch.
As with the iPhone, apps are also expected to play a major part in determining the success of the iPad. In that vein, JiWire's study also looked at mobile app usage and in-app advertising. The iPhone OS accounts for roughly 95% of ad requests on JiWire's network, so the findings mainly reflect ad activity on that platform.
More than half of its audience (52%) has acted on an in-app ad in the last 30 days, and 18% have made a purchase from an in-app ad -- very high conversion rates by any measure. Staas explained that the interaction rates are so high in part because 55% of its audience own smartphones compared to only 24% of the general U.S. mobile population, according to Nielsen Online figures.
Nearly three-quarters (76%) indicated a preference for free ad-supported apps over paid titles, highlighting the opportunity for advertising in games and other apps.
The study also suggested that mobile users are open to location-based advertising, with 84% as likely or more likely to engage with an ad linked to their current location. And 53% said they would be willing to share their location to receive more relevant advertising. That's welcome news to companies like Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt and Yelp that are starting to incorporate advertising into their location-based services.
Wi-Fi usage increased 15.8% over the last quarter, driven by the spread of free locations and Wi-Fi-enabled devices, according to JiWire. Wi-Fi connections in cafes in particular surged, with use up more than 50%. The number of public Wi-Fi locations overall increased 20% in the first quarter compared to a year ago.
JiWire's Wi-Fi ad network spans 30,000 locations, including Hilton and Marriott hotels, Starbucks stores and major U.S. airports. The findings in its latest study were based on user data from about 285,000 public Wi-Fi locations, as well as a survey of 2,030 customers between March and April 2010.