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09 December, 2014
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Tablets take off: take-up and use of tablet computers in Australia

By the Research and Analysis section

Woman using tablet

Tablet computers have been available in Australia for just over four years. [1]  Over that short time, tablets have contributed to significant changes in the way Australians use communications technologies. Factors such as the rapid growth in data download demand and the increasing intensity of online participation (outlined in the ACMA’s Communications report 2013–14), the availability of Wi-Fi networks, and the mobility offered by tablets themselves, have contributed to an ideal environment for tablet use to take off.

This researchacma snapshot presents the latest data on consumer use of and attitudes to tablets and the role tablets play in the adoption of over-the-top (OTT) communications services. In this snapshot, tablets are defined as wireless portable self-contained computers featuring a single panel with a touch-screen interface.

Check out our tablet infographic.

Tablets—what’s the story?

Australians are more connected than ever before. They have a wider choice of devices to access the internet and are using the internet to access a wider range of services.

Tablet computers, despite being relatively new, are now established as common devices in Australian households. Half of adult Australians used a tablet to access the internet in the six months to May 2014. [2] 
 
Increased take-up and use of tablets is driven by a number of factors including portability, user-friendly operating systems and larger screens for content consumption. The most popular tablet activities include communications, general online browsing and research, entertainment, and buying and selling.  

The majority (55 per cent) of tablet owners have tablets that only access the internet using Wi-Fi. Seventy-four per cent of internet users who engaged in one or more activities on tablets did so at home. In addition, tablet owners increasingly have more options to use Wi-Fi hot spots while on the move. The ACMA has released further information about Wi-Fi hot spots in the Strong signals research snapshot released on 26 November 2014.

Characteristics of tablet users

Fifty per cent of adult Australians reported using a tablet to access the internet in the six months to May 2014. As illustrated in Figure 1, compared with general internet users, those Australians who use tablets to conduct online activities are more likely to:

  • use their tablet to go online more than once a day (83 per cent)
  • have a diploma or degree (58 per cent)
  • hold managerial positions (21 per cent)
  • earn an annual income of $80,000 or more (30 per cent).

Figure 1 Comparison of general internet users with those who access the internet via a tablet and via a mobile phone

Figure 1 Comparison of general internet users with those who access the internet via a tablet and via a mobile phone

Figure 1 (.csv) Comparison of general internet users with those who access the internet via a tablet and via a mobile phone

Base: Internet users—percentage of people aged 18 years and over who used the internet in an average four-week period to June 2014. Mobile phones users—percentage of people aged 18 years and over who used the internet on their mobile phone in an average four-week period to June 2014. Tablet users—percentage of people aged 18 years and over who used the internet on their tablet in an average four-week period to June 2014.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, June 2014.

The popularity of using tablets and mobile phone use to access the internet differs with age. While mobile phones are used by a greater percentage of Australians for accessing the internet across all age groups, tablets show a peak in popularity for those aged 35–44, while mobile phones peak in popularity for internet access for 18–34 year olds.

Figure 2 Use of tablets vs. mobile phones to access the internet by age

Figure 2 Use of tablets vs. mobile phones to access the internet by age 

Figure 2 (.csv) Use of tablets vs. mobile phones to access the internet by age

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 years and over.
Source: ACMA-commissioned research, May 2014.

Choose your own connection

While all tablets on the market are Wi-Fi capable, many tablets also offer 3G/4G connectivity. However, only one in six tablet owners have a 3G/4G data plan. A device with 3G/4G connectivity generally is more expensive to purchase and requires a data plan with a mobile service provider to access a 3G/4G mobile network.

Wi-Fi only tablets are owned or used by 55 per cent of adult Australian tablet owners (4.4 million people at May 2014). Conversely, 38 per cent had a 3G/4G enabled tablet (3.1 million people). [3]  Only 1.4 million people had subscribed to a data plan (16 per cent of adult tablet users).

All together now—tablets used with other devices

While the use of laptop and desktop computers to access the internet (within the household) has shown a small decline, the use of tablets has increased by eight percentage points (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Devices used to access the internet from home, May 2014

Figure 3 Devices used to access the internet from home, May 2014 

Figure 3 (.csv) Devices used to access the internet from home, May 2014

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 years and over with a fixed-line telephone and/or a mobile telephone with household internet access.
Source: ACMA-commissioned research, May 2014.

Tablet users typically also access the internet via a number of other devices, including mobile phones, laptop computers, desktop computers and games consoles (Figure 4).

Figure 4 Other devices used by tablet users to go online, May 2014

Figure 4 Other devices used by tablet users to go online, May 2014 

Figure 4 (.csv) Other devices used by tablet users to go online, May 2014

Base: Percentage of tablet computer users aged 18 years and over.
Source: ACMA-commissioned research, May 2014.

Only one per cent of tablet owners used tablets exclusively to go online in the six months to May 2014. This compares with the 92 per cent of tablet owners who have used three or more devices.

There’s more than one way to use it—online activities

Figures 5 and 6 show that tablets are used as a general-purpose internet device. They are popular for a range of entertainment, research and general browsing activities, and have a similar use profile to mobile phones and computers (Figure 5). They are less popular than computers for communication (74 per cent used tablets compared to 85 per cent using computers). Banking and finance activities are more popular on mobile phones (49 per cent) and computers (68 per cent) than tablets (38 per cent).

Tablets are more popular than mobile phones for buying, selling and shopping online (41 per cent used tablets compared with 33 per cent using mobile phones) but less popular than computers (56 per cent) for these activities (Figure 6).

Figure 5 Online activities undertaken on tablets, June 2014

Figure 5 Online activities undertaken on tablets, June 2014 

Figure 5 (.csv) Online activities undertaken on tablets, June 2014

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 years and over who conducted at least one activity online on a tablet in an average four-week period to June 2014.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Figure 6 Comparison of select online activities by device

Figure 6 Comparison of select online activities by device 

Figure 6 (.csv) Comparison of select online activities by device

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 years and over who performed online activities on each device, including transactional and non-transactional activities.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Who’s doing what on tablets?

Tablet users aged 65 and over are lighter users of online banking (27 per cent) and buying, selling and shopping online (30 per cent) than younger tablet users. Those aged 25–44 are the biggest users of entertainment (69 per cent), and 18–24 year olds are the largest consumers of social media (59 per cent) on tablets. This is illustrated in Figure 7.

Figure 7 Internet activities performed on tablet computer by age, May 2014

Figure 7 Internet activities performed on tablet computer by age, May 2014 

Figure 7 (.csv) Internet activities performed on tablet computer by age, May 2014

Base: Percentage of tablets users in each age group.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Why we use tablets

Users report that the biggest attractions for using tablets are their portability (91 per cent) and light weight (88 per cent). The additional product offering of smaller screen tablet devices, such as the iPad mini, further facilitates portability.

Another popular reason for using tablets is their ease of use (88 per cent), particularly for users over-55. [4] 
 
Tablets are primarily used at home (96 per cent) and often used simultaneously with other activities such as watching free-to-air television, referred to as ‘dual-screening’. [5] 

Nielsen notes that dual-screening is undertaken by 74 per cent of online Australians, and the research also highlight the new activity of triple-screening [6], with more than a quarter of online Australians (26 per cent) participating in this activity in the past year. [7] 

Nielsen reports that among those with a tablet in their household, there is a high incidence of using tablets as the primary online multi-tasking device, with 60 per cent making regular use of this device for dual-screening, at February 2014. [8] 

Figure 8 Reasons for using a tablet, May 2014

Figure 8 Reasons for using a tablet, May 2014 

Figure 8 (.csv) Reasons for using a tablet, May 2014

Base: Percentage of tablet users aged 18 years and over.
Source: ACMA-commissioned research, May 2014.

Mobile advertising on tablets

OTT service providers are recognising the significance of tablets in the adoption of their services and have sought to capitalise on this popularity by selling advertising.
InMobi, a mobile advertising platform, has recently released data that shows growth in the amount of advertising on mobile devices in Australia. Measured by the number of impressions (a measure of the number of times an ad is displayed on a device) mobile advertising on tablets has increased by 246 per cent between 2012 and 2014.  This level of advertising growth outperformed impressions on smartphones, which have increased 110 per cent between 2012 and 2014. [9] InMobi noted that the growth in mobile advertising in Australia is a reflection of more people using mobile devices and the amount of time they spend on these devices. [10] 

Voice and video on tablets

Research shows that 4.3 million Australians use OTT communications services such as VoIP at June 2014. Of this group, PCs and laptops (79 per cent) are the most commonly used device to access OTT VOIP services, followed by mobile phones (35 per cent) and tablets (33 per cent) (Figure 9).

Figure 9 Devices used to access OTT VoIP services, June 2014

Figure 9 Devices used to access OTT Voice services, June 2014 

Figure 9 Devices used to access OTT VoIP services, June 2014

Base: Percentage of users of OTT VoIP services aged 18 years and over.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Increases in television viewing have also been observed over tablet computers. Recently-released ACMA research shows that broadcast television viewing has remained relatively stable over the last five years, however, a growing number of tablet owners are using online services to view television shows or films at a time and place of their choosing to complement their television screen viewing. [11]  At June 2014, 40 per cent of adult Australian tablet users streamed or downloaded TV shows (e.g., catch-up TV), full-length movies or general video clips (such as YouTube) on their tablet.

Data from the US showed that in 2012, 50 per cent of tablet users watched video and/or television content on their tablets. The data also indicated that tablet users are much more likely to watch video frequently. Almost 10 per cent of tablet users watched video on their tablets daily and 19 per cent watched video at least once a week. [12]

Recent international research released in the first quarter 2014 echoes this trend, showing that smartphones and tablets are increasingly a primary device choice for watching video. [13]  In quarter one 2014, 22 per cent of all online video watched was on mobile devices and tablets. ACMA research shows that Australians are not yet consuming the same level of online video content as in other countries. However, the trend of increasing video consumption over fixed and wireless broadband networks, and the forecast increase in mobile video traffic, indicates this may change in coming years. [14]

Tablet growth set to continue?

The global tablet market has undergone considerable growth since tablets were introduced in 2010. This has been driven by the range of online activities consumers conduct via their tablets, such as communications and video viewing. IDC reports the market grew 11 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2014, with shipments reaching 49.3 million units. [15] Similar to the Australian market, tablet ownership has increased across the UK [16] and US [17] (Table 1).

However, recently-released research shows that the growth in the table market may be slowing. IDC notes that tablet market growth had slowed somewhat due to rise of larger screen smartphones (or phablets) and longer than anticipated tablet ownership cycles [18], and forecasts reduced growth in worldwide sales of tablets (seven per cent in 2014 in comparison with the 53 per cent growth in 2013), with growth to plateau by 2018. [19]

Similarly, in Australia various industry and media reports have indicated a slow-down in the sale of tablets. [20] Telsyte reported a 28 per cent drop in sales of tablets over the first half of 2014. This drop was attributed to factors such as longer upgrade cycles, and Telsyte notes the first half-year retail cycle is traditionally slower. While sales are expected to increase towards the end of 2014, Telsyte forecasts that there will be a net decline in tablet sales in 2014 compared with 2013. [21] 

Table 1 International comparison of Tablet ownership

 Country 2013   2014
 Australia  42%  50%
 US  31%  42%
 UK  24%  44%

Note: Australian statistics for Australian adults aged 18 years and over.
UK data collected October to November 2013. [22]  UK statistics for those aged 16 years and over.
US statistics for US adults aged 18 years and over. Data collected January 2013 and January 2014. [23]
Source: Data relating to Australia is from an ACMA-commissioned survey, May 2014. Data relating to UK is from Ofcom. Data relating to US is from Pew Research Internet Project.

Background to this snapshot

Data sources

The two main data sources used in this report are:

  • ACMA-commissioned survey
  • Roy Morgan Single Source database.

Estimates in this snapshot are based on the following sample sizes:

Table 2 Sample size (people aged 18 years and over)

   Sample size
June 2014
 % of
population
(weighted)
Roy Morgan Single Source
     used in the internet in an average four-week period
     used the internet over tablet computer in an average four week period
 
6,227
1,956
 
ACMA-commissioned survey
     Total sample 
     performed any activity over internet in the last six months
     used the internet via tablet computer in the last six months 
 
1,800
1,673
942
 
93
50
 ABS total population estimate [24] 17,896,525
(June 2013)
 

Source: ACMA-commissioned survey (at May 2014), Roy Morgan Single Source and Australian Bureau of Statistics. 

ACMA research program

This snapshot is part of the ACMA’s research program, researchacma, which has five broad areas of interest:

  • market developments
  • media content and culture
  • social and economic participation
  • citizen and consumer safeguards
  • regulatory best practice and development.

Each snapshot covers a single issue and allows the ACMA to focus on communications, convergence and digital economy issues of interest to stakeholders. Access other snapshots here.

Further information

In association with the annual Communications report, the ACMA publishes a series of complementary reports and snapshots on topical issues of relevance to the ACMA and its stakeholders.

End notes

1. J Menn and T Bradshaw, Apple in control of iPad’s Europe launch, The Financial Times, 27 May 2010. 
 
2. ACMA-commissioned research.
 
3. 3G/4G enabled tablets also have Wi-Fi functionality.
 
4. D Frohlich, ‘The over-55s love tablets so why don’t manufacturers love them?’, The Conversation, 9 August 2014.
 
5. A Little, Over the Top Video–‘First to Scale Wins’, 2012.
 
6. Nielsen refers to triple-screening as watching TV while interacting with two or more connected devices. See Nielsen, Australian Connected Consumers, 2014.
 
7. Nielsen, Australian Connected Consumers, 2014.
 
8. ibid.
 
9. Impressions in this report refers to a measure of the number of times an ad is displayed on tablet devices. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an ad impression may only be counted when an ad counter receives and responds to an HTTP request for a tracking asset from a client. Further information on measurement of Internet advertising and impressions can be found on Interactive Advertising Bureau website.
 
10. InMobi, InMobi Insights: Australian Mobile Advertising Grew Almost 140 Percent Over Past Year, 30 September 2014.
 
11. ACMA, 'Six emerging trends in media and communications—Occasional paper', November 2014.
 
12. J Devan, ‘Quick stats- OTT video and advertising on tablets show strong adoption', 26 July 2012.
 
13. Ooyala, Global Video index, Q1 2014.
 
14. ACMA, 'Six emerging trends in media and communications—Occasional paper', November 2014.
 
15. IDC, ‘Worldwide Table market Grows 11% in Second Quarter on Shipments from a Wide Range of Vendors, According to IDC’, 24 July 2014.
 
16. Ofcom, Communications Market Report, August 2014.
 
17. Pew Research Centre, Data Trend: Device ownership over time, January 2014, December 2012.
 
18. ibid. 
 
19. IDC, ‘Worldwide Tablet Growth Expected to Slow to 7.2% in 2014 Along With First Year of iPad Decline’,25 November 2014
 
20. M Roddan, ‘JB Hi-Fi hit by slump in tablet sales, but reaffirms full year guidance’, The Australian Business Review, 29 October 2014.
 
21. Telsyte, ‘Australian table sales drop 28% in first half of 2014; lack of reason to upgrade holding back market’, 19 August 2014.
 
22. Ofcom, Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report, April 2014. 
 
23. Pew Research Centre, Data Trend: Device ownership over time, January 2014, December 2012.
 
24. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3101.0 Australian Demographic Statistics, March 2014.
 

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