Among early adopters, media tablets have become favored devices for reading newspapers and magazines, along with a range of other daily personal activities.
New findings from a Gartner survey of 500 tablet users show top activities shifting from PC to tablet include checking email (81%), reading
the news (69%), checking the weather forecast (63%), social networking (62%) and gaming (60%).
The survey, conducted at the end of 2011 in the U.S., U.K, and Australia was run as an online seven-day diary in which participants recorded what they did with their three principal devices (media tablets, mobile phones and PCs), on a daily basis.
With more than half of tablet owners preferring tablets over newspapers for reading news, the results raise more questions about the future of print editions. Tablets were preferred to other kinds of hardware for reading as well. When it came to books, for example, one in three used their media tablets compared to 13% for notebooks, ultrabooks, and other “mobile PCs” and 7% for mobile phones.
Survey participants said they tend to use multiple devices interchangeably, depending on which is most convenient at a particular time or for a specific purpose, rather than substituting one for another. They used their desktop PCs 20% less on weekends.
Tablets played a more dominant role in the home than mobile phones or PCs, with people using them mainly in the living room (87%), bedroom (65%) and kitchen (47%). “Weekday evenings are the most popular time to use media tablets, and this usage flattens out during the weekend as people tend to be away from home,” said Carolina Milanesi, research VP at Gartner.
The mobile phone, however, is the device used most throughout the day because of its portability. Almost eight in 10 people surveyed used their phones in the living room, while outside the home, 65% use them in transit and 65% at work. The widespread use of phones and tablets in the living room underscores the shift to two-screen viewing as the TV now shares attention with other devices.
“The mobile phone is the most personal device in the hands of users, and it enables more private activities,” said Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner. She noted people use their phones eight times a day for tasks requiring a Web connection, compared to twice a day for tablets and three times a day for mobile PCs.
Male and female mobile users both tend to use the Internet more at home than elsewhere. But women go online outside the home much less than men, with gender-specific usage patterns a possible factor.
The survey confirmed people are buying tablets as a smaller, more lightweight option to PCs. 45% said they don’t share their tablets, suggesting the devices are considered almost as personal as mobile phones. Tablets have often been distinguished from phones as being shared, household devices. Much of that may depend on whether they’re used in a family context.