Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tablet Demand Points To a Multi-Device Mobile Market

This month comScore released an insightful report titled "2012 Mobile Future in Focus: Key Insights from 2011 and What They Mean for the Coming Year."

Among other things, the report details growing smartphone adoption and usage trends by consumers. "Nearly 42 percent of all U.S. mobile subscribers now use smartphones," and "[m]ore than half of the U.S. smartphone population used their phone to perform retail research while inside a store in 2011 Also, "64.2 million U.S. smartphone users … accessed social networking sites or blogs on their mobile devices at least once in December 2011," and "more than half of these mobile social networking users accessing social media almost every day."

But early evidence indicates that tablet adoption rates are eclipsing smartphone adoption:

Tablets quickly rose in popularity in 2011, taking less than two years to reach nearly 40 million tablets in use among the U.S. mobile population, significantly outpacing smartphones which took 7 years to reach similar levels of adoption.

As the report explains, tablet devices have potential to reshape the mobile and connected device landscape:

[T]ablets have emerged as the fourth screen, heralding a shift to an increasingly multi-device lifestyle that is becoming the norm for many consumers we call 'digital omnivores' who engage seamlessly with multiple online touchpoints throughout a day. Even when accessing the same content, each device has very different peak usage times throughout a typical day, highlighting their varying use cases and value propositions to the digitally-connected consumer.

The report points out that "only 8 percent of tablet traffic currently comes via mobile broadband." But it also suggests that "[a]s tablets continue on their upward climb in 2012 and mobile broadband plans become more accessible, it is highly likely that the share of mobile broadband traffic seen over tablets will rapidly increase and may eventually reach levels consummate with mobile phones."

Smartphone and tablet adoption and usage trends epitomize the dynamism of today's wireless market. This proliferation of new mobile devices and service options has proceeded in the absence of a restrictive regulatory apparatus. New regulation of wireless broadband along the lines of old monopoly-era assumptions is not only unnecessary; it would risk serious harm to future innovation. Wireless broadband must remain free from public utility regulations.