With Sneaky Speed, Small Devices Become Big In Homes

Friends used to whine about couples they saw at restaurants who mostly spent time communicating with their smartphone, not each other. It seems that complaint has largely gone away as what was once irritating and novel became the fact-of-life and pretty routine.

A Recode story made me think of it. It headlined a story, “Your Phone Is Becoming Your Favorite Screen, Even When You Are At Home” which is so undoubtedly true that for a moment you can forget it’s also quite a remarkable event.

If we’re viewing at home, most of us want to watch on the biggest-available-screen. But that may be changing. Broadband services company Sandvine reports that now, 30% of Internet data usage inside homes comes from phones and tablets. Recode notes that figure was 20% in 2013, and 9% in 2012.

So little by little--or, really, by leaps and bounds--our content patterns are changing. Maybe the phrase is “have changed.” But read the signs, and you could see it happening all along.



A couple years ago, Doron Wesly, then the head of market strategy for Tremor Video, did some pretty interesting cross-media research. He said people were speeding up their decision to get a new, big connected TV, because, he deduced, they wanted a smart TV to access OTT providers.

At the same time that was happening, he told me: “You probably have an old TV in the bedroom, and you’re not going to put a connected TV in there because you’re watching on a tablet.”

So he’d be one person not at all surprised by that Sandvine stat. Neither is Vevo, which Recode says discovered--way back in 2011--that most of its views come from mobile phones in living rooms or bedrooms.

Ubiquity helps. The Sandvine report, 2016 Global Network Phenomena, says that on a typical day, there are 7.1 connected devices in homes with an active fixed access connection. But get this: Sandvine says in its study of 500,000 users, 6.8% had more than 15 devices in their home. A TV set, in a place like that is really just the biggest dust collector.

The Sandvine report says 81% of the traffic on iPads come from watching “real-time entertainment,” and that stat is 65% on PlayStations,  61% on Android phones, and 45% from the trusty old Windows-based PC. (Sandvine used specific brands and types.)

The point, pretty simply, is what you already know from your own life. The mobile phone and the iPad are fully valid screens not just while people are on the go, but when they are in the comfort of their own homes.  

Compare that to not very long ago, when the “second screen” was a phrase that did double duty. Back then, the screen that wasn’t the TV was considered subordinate. Now, it's increasingly the primary way we entertain ourselves,  That annoying couple using their smartphone while dining are still doing it.

But now they’re at home, sitting across from each other, and watching two different movies.

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