In the three years since Steve Jobs introduced the Apple iPad, at least one-third of U.S. adults has acquired media tablets, according to the results of our 2013 survey. The original large-format media tablets remain the most popular, but the new smartphones with larger displays and less-expensive mini tablets now entering the market may slow their growth in 2013.
Mobile media users had a rapidly expanding array of devices to choose from in 2012. Google launched its Nexus series of media tablets with a large and mini model. Microsoft introduced two versions of its large Surface tablet running its slick new Windows 8 operating systems — a more iPad-like RT model and a full-function Surface Pro that essentially is a more advanced tablet PC.
Not to be outdone, Amazon and Barnes & Noble introduced low-cost large-format tablets to complement their mini tablets. And Apple finally acquiesced and launched a mini iPad.
Samsung continued its efforts to out-innovate Apple in 2012 with new devices that blur the distinctions between mini tablets and smartphones, often referred to as “phablets.”
While the growth of smartphone users as percentages of respondents between 2012 and 2013 was flat, the use of smartphones for news appears to be on the rise within all age groups.
The Apple iPhone and Android-powered smartphones continue to dominate the market. The percentage of Blackberry users declined from nearly 13 percent in 2012 to 5 percent in our 2013 survey.
In our 2013 survey, we included more specific questions about the use of smartphones and media tablets for accessing and consuming news content.
Slightly more than half of smartphone news consumers said they preferred using web browsers over downloadable mobile apps for accessing news content, but that distinction is being blurred by the increasing use of HTML5-based Web apps by news organizations.
Smartphone news consumers who downloaded mobile news apps showed a preference for those provided by newspapers.
The use of large media tablets has grown in all age groups since the beginning of 2012. Women out numbered men overall (51 percent to 49 percent). Higher percentages of women were found among respondents who were 55 or older and younger than 25.
The Apple iPad continued to dominate the market in 2012. However, the lower-priced large-format Kindle Fire HD introduced by Amazon late in 2012 appears to be catching on quickly and may present a significant challenge to Apple in 2013. The Google Nexus 10 and large-format Microsoft Surface RT were used by only two respondents each.
Large tablet users were somewhat more inclined to prefer downloadable mobile apps over web browsers for news (46 percent to 41 percent).
Half of the large tablet news consumers downloaded one or more tablet newspaper apps, but the most popular apps were provided by television news organizations and niche news entities, such as the Weather Channel.
The number of large tablet news consumers who said they had subscriptions to digital content provided by newspapers (paid separately or bundled with print) was too low to draw any meaningful conclusions.