Tablet ownership outright exploded over the holiday season, according to Pew Research. With a margin of error of 2.4%, now 19% of American adults own tablet computers as of January, a jump from 10% +/- 2% in December. This can be largely be naturally attributed to gift-giving during holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Festivus (assuming that anyone wants to still hand out gifts after the Airing of Grievances). However, what should be noted is that while tablet ownership has naturally grown by large amounts over the past two years thanks to the iPad and other tablet computers, this is by far the biggest growth period yet for tablets.
While specific platform-by-platform ownership was not revealed, it seems likely that the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s heavily-marketed $199 tablet was a huge part of the growth, along with Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color and Nook Tablet, and even possibly the budget sub-$100 no-name brand tablets that many retailers pushed, especially during Black Friday. The iPad was obviously a large part of the growth, as well, but it seems unlikely that it was the sole force behind tablet usage growth. Still, Android tablets in some shape and form appear to be pushing tablets into more people’s hands, dramatically reshaping the personal computing market.
Also interesting to note is that e-reader ownership also spiked from 10% to 19% from December to January; while they aren’t as talked about as tablets are as desirable devices, there appears to be a demand for these as well. That many of these devices are now available for low price points – even entry-level Kindle and Nook models are available for below $100, and generic e-readers are getting even cheaper – has to be fueling the demand for these devices as well. Remember that this is where Android is doing well also: the Nook Touch is powered by Android, and many “color e-readers” with LCD screens are Android-based as well.
There also appears to be a significant crossover between e-reader and tablet owners: 29% of all American adults own either a tablet or e-reader, so for many, the devices may be complementary; e-readers with e-ink screens are seen as superior for reading in sunlight, while tablets are seen more as computing devices for them, and not so much for reading; or only for reading in favorable lighting conditions.
While there’s still a lot to learn from the data, and whether growth will continue is something that many manufacturers will be curious about, this data shows that tablets are not just fads or gimmicks: they’re becoming a serious part of the technology industry, and people clearly want them.