Gartner shines a light on mobile device usage trends

Data flows

IT market watcher Gartner has lifted the lid on how the proliferation of mobile devices are changing the way people access information online.

The firm conducted a survey at the end of 2011 in the US, UK and Australia to pinpoint activities that were traditionally carried out on PCs but are now shifting to tablets.

Eighty one per cent of respondents said they now use tablets to check emails, while others said they used them to read the news (69 per cent), find out the weather forecast (63 per cent), social networking (62 per cent) and gaming (60 per cent).

The survey took the form of a seven-day diary in which respondents documented online what they did with their three most-used devices.

"The rapid adoption of media tablets is substantively changing how consumers access, create and share content," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.

"The survey found that more than 50 per cent of media tablet owners prefer to read news, magazines and books on screen, rather than on paper.

"On average, one in three respondents used their media tablets to read a book, compared with 13 per cent for mobile PCs, and seven per cent for mobile phones," she added.

However, Gartner's principal research analyst, Meike Escherich, doesn't think these trends foreshadow a complete shift from paper to screen-only consumption.

"We do not believe that the 'paperless home' will prevail, but it is clear that the 'less-paper model' is the new reality," Escherich explained.

Similarly, media tablets aren't completely replacing PCs or mobile phones, he added.

"Early adopters of media tablets said they use their devices interchangeably, rather than substituting one device for another," explained Escherich.

"They seek to use whichever device is at hand or the most convenient to use at a particular time and for a specific task."

The survey showed that media tablets play a more dominant role in the home than mobile phones or PCs. Respondents used tablets most often in the living room (87 per cent), the bedroom (65 per cent) and the kitchen (47 per cent).

The survey also revealed that 45 per cent of respondents do not share their tablet, which suggests the devices are treated as personally as mobile phones.

Despite this, mobile phones emerged as the device respondents used most during the day.

"The average user in the survey [used a mobile] eight times a day for tasks requiring connectivity. This compares with an average usage frequency of twice a day for media tablets and three times a day for mobile PCs," added Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner.