Details About Digital Devices: How Affluents Use Smartphone And Tablets

One of the most profound changes in the Affluent marketplace has been their rapid adoption of mobile devices. Over the past two years, tablet ownership among Affluents ($100K+ in annual household income) rose from 9% to 41%, while smartphone ownership rose from 45% to 63%. These figures are even higher if we examine household (rather than personal) ownership, with smartphones being in 84% of Affluent households, and tablets in 68%. Ownership skews higher among younger Affluents, as well as Ultra Affluents ($250K+ HHI) and Wealthy ($500K+ HHI) consumers. Interestingly, ownership of both devices is slightly higher among women than among men.

Of course, the true impact of these devices comes, not just from their growing adoption, but rather their pervasive integration into Affluent lives. To better understand these dynamics, I’ll explore several key differences in how Affluents use smartphones as opposed to tablets. (Unless otherwise noted, the data below are from the 2013 Ipsos Affluent Survey USA, and refer to the percent of tablet or smartphone owners engaging in the activity described within the past 30 days.)

Smartphone activities often skew local. Given the highly portable nature of smartphones, it is unsurprising that they are used more widely for activities that leverage local content. Checking the weather is the most widely engaged-in activity, with 74% having checked the weather on their smartphone in the past 30 days, followed closely by 71% using e-mail and accessing maps or directions. More than half (58%) checked movie times or restaurant information. Perhaps consistent with their more portable nature, smartphones are more often used for social media updates than tablets (48% vs. 35%).

Tablets are used for a more diffuse set of activities. While the most common smartphone activities (highlighted above) were done by nearly three-in-four, only two activities were done by a majority of tablet owners – the broad and generic “use an app” (53%), and using email (51%). This broad dispersion of activities may represent more “exploratory” uses of a newer device, as well as simply the larger form-factor enabling a wider range of activities. Put another way, tablet activities are more idiosyncratic, while smartphone activities are more concentrated in the smaller number of activities for which the device (at least today) is ideally suited.

Gaming and app downloading still prevalent, but slowing. Half of smartphone owners, and 41% of tablet owners, have played games on their devices in the past 30 days; both figures are down from 2012. This may reflect the maturation of the platforms, with games being an “introductory” or “exploratory” activity that users engage in upon first getting their device; it may also reflect the relative lack of a new buzz-inducing game (à la “Angry Birds”) in today’s marketplace. In another trend that may reflect platform maturation, declining numbers have downloaded an app on to their smartphone (63%) or tablet (47%), although both figures obviously remain high in absolute terms.

Media preferences differ by device. Nearly half (49%) of smartphone owners listened to music on their phone, and 29% listened to radio specifically (compared to 26% and 13% respectively, for tablet owners).Tablets skew significantly higher in many forms of reading, including reading books (37% of tablet owners in the past 30 days versus 10% for smartphones), newspapers (20% vs. 14%) and magazines (20% vs. 8%). Interestingly, reading blogs is equally prevalent on both devices, and smartphones are more commonly used for reading sports news and following sports scores.Tablets are more frequently used for watching TV shows (25%) and movies (22%) – figures that are two to three times higher than for smartphones.

Shopping patterns also differ by device: About half (53%) of smartphone owners and tablet owners made purchases on their device in the past year – incidence figures unchanged from a year ago. While app and game purchases remain popular, both are trending down among smartphone and tablet owners, consistent with the usage trend described above. Examining other purchase categories reveals that smartphones are more likely to be used for music purchases and take-out/delivery food orders, while tablets are more likely to be used for purchases of books and apparel. 

Many of the variations in usage are can be directly attributed to differences in the functionality and portability of the two device types. Activities that benefit from a larger screen tend to be more likely to be done on a tablet, while more on-the-go, live-update type activities are done on smartphones. Of course as technology and consumer desires evolve, so too will usage patterns. We will report on these evolutions in future articles.

2 comments about "Details About Digital Devices: How Affluents Use Smartphone And Tablets".
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  1. Edmund Dantes Hamilton from Internet Webpages Newspaper Inc - Chicago Blog Week, October 16, 2013 at 3:59 p.m.

    Can you please give more clarity to the statement made in paragraph six: "Interestingly, reading blogs is equally prevalent on both devices..."

    I'm interested in knowing if that means 50% of tablet / smartphone users read blogs equally?

    If not 50% what is the actual percentage? Thanks.

  2. Stephen Kraus from Next Level Sciences, October 24, 2013 at 2:11 a.m.

    Hi Edmund,

    Thanks for your question. 18% of Affluent smartphone owners read a blog on their phone in the past 30 days. For tablet owners, the comparable figure is 19%. I hope that helps!



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