Martin Garner of CCS Insight discusses the analyst firm’s second annual tablet research report, which looks at attitudes and purchasing behaviours of users and non-tablet users.
What are the key findings from the research from an operator point of view?
Consumer tablets are the fastest growing gadget category ever. Since the iPad was introduced in April 2010, one in four people in the US and Nordic countries, and one in six in the UK have adopted a tablet – it took 16 years for mobile phones to reach that level.
Our survey has shown that this rapid growth looks set to continue. While 38 percent of the next wave of potential buyers - the early mass market - are considering buying a tablet, more than 40 percent of tablet owners are in households with more than one tablet.
However, mobile operators and retailers have lost out with the first wave of tablet buyers choosing to buy from traditional computing retail channels. Instead, owners see tablets as part of their computing, not part of their mobile set up. Regardless, we are heading into a true mass market for tablets.
What can operators do to encourage more people to purchase tablets through their own retail channels?
Users see tablets first and foremost as part of their computing set-up rather than as mobile devices, so they naturally gravitate to PC retailers and department stores to buy them.
Until now, this has made it difficult for service providers to sell tablets successfully in their own stores. However, this role looks set to change with growing consumer interest in connectivity and the introduction of 4G LTE.
In order to address the opportunity, operators need to do two things to catch up with their consumers. First, they need to make their tariffs more attractive. Today, users have to take out a completely new data plan for their tablet and, unsurprisingly, most are not willing to do that.
Second, operators will need to make their tariffs available in the places where people are buying tablets, ie, through PC and department stores as well as in their own shops.
If 4G LTE is a driver for tablet connections in the future, what opportunities and challenges does it provide for operators?
As far as tablet buyers are concerned, it seems the 4G LTE messaging is really starting to get through with heightened interest noted among buyers. Once users have experienced 4G LTE, most do not want to give it up and go back to 3G, which makes this is a huge opportunity for service providers.
However, as well as tariffing and channel challenges, operators will need to focus on their messaging. Just pitching 4G LTE as faster will not persuade people to pay a premium. Instead operators need to tell us why life will be better with a 4G LTE connected tablet.
The messaging at present is mostly resonating with men aged between 18-34 years old. Yet the survey shows that women use their tablets in a wider variety of ways than men, and are in many ways better users of tablets than men. Operators need to find messages that work for female users too.
Are you seeing different trends in the rest of Europe, outside of the UK?
We have found that attitudes and usage patterns across Europe are remarkably similar for tablets. Where differences do show up is in the rate at which countries are adopting tablets - faster in the Nordics, slower in southern Europe - and in brand preferences. The latter has a lot to do with where Apple has its own stores, and with consumers' purchasing power.
As the tablet market becomes more competitive, what can we expect to see from the manufacturers over the next 12 months?
We can expect to see rapid innovation on the tablets themselves through edge-to-edge screen technology, better audio, better cameras and a fuller range of accessories to help them serve a broad range of uses really well.
Manufacturers will increase their focus on the ability to use the tablet in conjunction with other devices in the home, including TV and media devices, the home network, monitoring and control to improve energy use, security and so on. Some manufacturers see an opportunity to compete strongly in these areas because Apple has a lower presence in some of them.