The shifting tides in the mobile world seem to be moving in favour of tablets. While global uptake of mobile phones remains high, a trend that looks to continue with smart phones leading the way, it is tablets that are making waves in the mobile space. A report from Gartner estimates that worldwide tablet sales are expected to reach 118.9 million units this year, a 98 percent increase from 2011’s figure of 60 million units sold.
Naturally, this growth is expected to be led by Apple’s iPad sales, but today’s tablet buyers have more choices than ever before. Samsung’s Galaxy Note devices, with a range of screen sizes, are proving unexpectedly popular, sitting squarely at the junction between mobile phone and tablet. Amazon, too, is feeding the tablet market with its Kindle Fire product.
It is easy to see the appeal of tablets: touch interfaces are easy to use, and they are perfect for people who have relatively light web-surfing needs. In addition, the large, bright screens make them ideal consumption devices, for those who want to watch movies, or tv shows. They’re portable, should the need arise, or can function as home entertainment devices, either in place of existing media (like television and newspapers) or in addition to them. Research from Forrester showed that 85% of tablet users use their tablets while watching television – and another report from Nielsen says that 30% of tablet use happens while watching television.
The ability to message, e-mail, surf the web, use social networks, play games and more while watching television is certainly one of the great attributes of the tablet – moving computing from a deskbound activity (or one which must be done while sitting up) to something far more relaxed. Tablet users can even lie in bed and use their devices, so it’s no surprise that tablets have taken computers from the desk to the couch.
The fact is that tablets offer up a portion of the mobile experience writ large: users can pick apps to extend the utility of their tablets, and while tablets don’t necessarily come with voice communication capability, this is not necessarily a limitation: apps like Skype and Apple’s own FaceTime allow for voice and video calling.
For marketers, the opportunities presented by the tablet revolution are many. These are, after all, devices designed for the presentation of rich media. Tablet users are ready consumers of information, and if their purchase and use of ad-supported apps is anything to go by, they don’t mind a certain amount of advertising in exchange for added utility. For the moment, tablets remain merely a subset of mobile devices, lumped in with feature phones and smart phones – but in a smarter tomorrow, the mobile tablet may be in a class of its own, with specially-devised delivery systems that take full advantage of the touch interface, the large screen, and the other unique attributes of the platform.