Upwardly mobile

Upwardly mobile

The device used to access the internet has important implications for marketers’ strategy. Across ages groups, LANCE CLATWORTHY takes a look at the trends in ownership and usage of both smartphones and tablets.

Summary : Focus on smartphone, but also tablet for aged 55+

  • Smartphone ownership continues to grow, albeit slowly amongst aged 18 to 54 who are closer to saturation
  • A smartphone is used to access the internet significantly more than a tablet, except for aged 55+
  • Among aged 18 to 34, all smartphone owners use them for access to the internet, but for aged 55+, only half the smartphone owners use their phone to go online
  • Tablet ownership continues to grow, except for aged 18 to 24
  • Tablet use to access the internet is in slow decline, except for aged 55+

Looking at news media readers (91% of aged 14+)

A desktop computer is used to go online by 82 per cent of news media readers – that’s decreasing but it remains the primary device for internet access. A smartphone is used by 62 per cent while a tablet is used by 42 per cent. With respect to smartphone and tablet, there are some differing dynamics across age groups. Whether as a media owner or an advertiser, these dynamics have differing implications for marketers.

Among readers aged 18 to 34, 86 per cent use a smartphone for the internet, but this reduces considerably to only 33 per cent among aged 55+. And while those aged 35 to 54 use a tablet more than the other age groups, it’s only those aged 55+ who use a tablet more than a smartphone.


Aged 14+ : Tablet and smartphone ownership growing; tablet use is less and is static

For all readers aged 14+, we see increasing ownership of smartphones (76%) and tablets (68%), but the use of tablet to access the internet has been static at 42 per cent for three years. Smartphone users outnumber tablet users 3:2 on internet access.


Aged 18 to 24 : Small growth in ownership of smartphone; tablet use is declining

Among readers aged 18 to 24, we see that smartphone ownership (86%) is close to saturation and that all of the smartphone owners use the device for the internet. Smartphone use for the internet outnumbers tablet by nearly 3:1. It’s a big difference, but let’s remind ourselves that, although tablet use is in slow decline for this age group, a third of readers do still use a tablet for the internet.


Aged 25 to 34 : Small growth in ownership of smartphone and tablet; tablet use is declining

Readers aged 25 to 34 have a similar device profile to the 18 to 24 group. Smartphone ownership (87%) and use for the internet (86%) are equally high, but tablet ownership (73%) continues to grow. While more of this age group use the tablet for the internet (43%) we again see usage of this device in a downward trend. Smartphone users now outnumber tablet users by 2:1.


Aged 35 to 54 : Growth in smartphone and tablet ownership, but only in smartphone use

For readers aged 35 to 54, smartphone ownership (81%) and use for the internet (71%) continues to grow. Tablet ownership (72%) is also growing but the use of the device for the internet is now static.


Aged 55+ : Tablet and smartphone ownership and use are growing; tablet used slightly more

Other age groups have a higher ownership of tablets, but readers aged 55+ are the only age group that continues to grow the use of a tablet to access the internet. And of those who own smartphones only half of them are using them to access the internet – that’s very low compared with younger smartphone owners. Indeed, this is the only age group where a tablet is used slightly more for the internet than a smartphone. With tablet penetration having grown at the same rate as smartphone over the last 3 years, it looks like tablet will remain the most used device for the foreseeable future.


Smartphone continues to become more important

We have taken a look at news media readers, but our insights would be the same if we looked at all people irrespective of whether they are readers. We have seen that smartphone ownership continues to grow and that a smartphone is used to access the internet significantly more than a tablet. Indeed among aged 18 to 34, all smartphone owners use them for access to the internet.

Except for aged 18 to 24, tablet ownership also continues to grow, but tablet use to access the internet is in slow decline.

Those aged 55+ are the exception to the above. For this age group, not only are smartphone and tablet ownership growing, but both are also growing as a device used for going online. Only half the smartphone owners use it for the internet with tablet actually being the device most used.

Tablets remain important, but are becoming less so unless you are using marketing to target age 55+. Compared with tablet, some 50% more use a smartphone for internet. Furthermore, the smartphone device continues to grow its penetration and usage. Whether an advertiser or a media owner, many digital marketing tools (eg websites, apps, digital ads and CRM communications strategy) should reflect the increasing importance of smartphone.

Source: emmaTM 12 months to January 2017. Readership based on last four weeks. Survey conducted by Ipsos MediaCT, people 14+ ; Nielsen DRM January 2017, People 14+ only.


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