What To Expect And How To Prepare As The U.S. Mobile Landscape Matures

mobile-tablet-phone-peopleMarketers of late have been inundated with the idea of the proverbial rising tide of mobile. But by mid-2014, this idea, while still certainly still ringing true for many emerging or developing markets, has largely run its course within the U.S.

The tide rose, we’re standing waist deep, and, as the landscape steadies, the short-term shifts have become less dramatic.

To get away from the analogies, both the domestic smartphone and tablet markets have largely reached maturity, and more subtle shifts in computing behavior are now on the horizon.

Consider that for U.S. markets, analysts have observed smartphone shipments slowing overall. The growth rate of tablet purchases, an area expected to see tremendous continued growth, has also flattened.

As consumers’ tastes mature with the technology, the marriage of context and content becomes more important for marketers. This concept is likely partially responsible for holding back the widespread use of consumer wearable technology at the present time — the information and notifications displayed are likely useful, but they have not been implemented a way that feels “natural” for the average consumer.

So, what about the current environment? In this article, we’ll examine recent U.S. and Canadian usage statistics to provide a view into how things have changed over the past months and years — and to illuminate some clues as to future trends.

Phablet Growth

In early January 2014, Chitika Insights studied all Samsung-based smartphone web traffic in the U.S., segmenting the results by device. At that time, users of smartphones with a five-inch or larger display represented more than 37% of all Samsung smartphone-based web traffic.


Now, five months later, that percentage has ballooned to 55%, thanks largely to the release of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and growth of the Galaxy Note 3.


Both of Samsung’s most recent Galaxy S devices (one of the top selling smartphone lines in the world) have surpassed the five-inch screen size mark. But while it would be easy to believe that this slow creep in screen size hasn’t impacted user behavior, other studies show that users do indeed consume content differently on these type of devices.

Specifically, Opera MediaWorks found that “phablet” users were much more active on social media sites throughout the day as compared to traditional smartphone and tablet users. Phablet owners are employing these devices in one of the more traditional tablet use cases — leisurely web browsing while at home.

The growth of phablets in the United States represents one of the more recent changes in how consumers are looking to contextualize their computing behavior.

A greater number of users are valuing the flexibility of these devices from a functionality and content consumption standpoint. Not only can they use these devices like any other smartphone, but the larger screen has allowed them to expand beyond previous roadblocks that discouraged more leisurely uses.

The Tablet Machine Slows Down, Resets

In a telling statement from its most recent report on tablet growth rates, the International Data Corporation (IDC) noted:

In mature markets, where many buyers have purchased higher-end products from market leaders, consumers are deciding that their current tablets are good enough for the way they use them. Few are feeling compelled to upgrade the same way they did in years past, and that’s having an impact on growth rates.

This sentiment is echoed in tablet usage rates in the U.S. and Canada. In a study published in April 2014, Chitika Insights found that a whopping 91.6% of all tablet web traffic in the two North American neighbors comes from users of just three tablet brands: Apple, Samsung, and Amazon. Seventy-seven point two percentage points of that figure is generated by iPads, representing only a slight drop from the 81.3% observed in April 2013.


Click to enlarge.

Despite the more shallow growth and consolidation from a brand perspective, tablets aren’t going away, and there is reason to believe that the industry is changing to branch out in more directions.

Just as phablets are likely nipping at a user’s screen time that in the past may have been spent on a tablet, recent developments suggest that larger tablets will soon act as true PC replacements. A good example of an early mover here is Microsoft with its 12-inch Surface Pro 3.

Although still in the early stages, the larger tablet value proposition is an interesting one for marketers. It would allow for campaigns that take advantage of near-PC sized screens but with the expectation of touch interaction.

Additionally, with more beefy processors and hardware, uses for these tablets could approach the advanced applications that previously were much better suited for PCs. These exciting developments are good news for creative marketers looking to get an edge as the mobile environment continues to mature.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics | Mobile Marketing | Samsung | Statistics | Statistics: General | Statistics: Market Share | Statistics: Popularity & Usage


About The Author: is a Market Analyst and lead author of reports for Chitika Insights, the research arm of the Chitika online ad network, which issues widely-cited weekly studies on a variety North American Web usage trends.

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  • sharithurow

    Great article! I like your “phablet” term.

    I think most business owners need to take all numbers in context. Many people will not complete complex tasks on a smartphone.

  • Andrew

    Thanks Shari! Although I can’t take credit for the “phablet” portmanteau ;-)

    Regarding your second point, I absolutely agree. The impact of these changing preferences in screen size and functionality will vary depending on the given industry and the corresponding needs of the customer base.


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