It's been some time since I last came across a survey which asked these types of questions; aside from the Pew Research Center everyone seems to have stopped asking about device adoption in late 2012 or early 2013.
The 47 page report (PDF) is based on a survey group of 1,228 college students between the ages of 18 and 30. The survey was conducted by Harris Poll in February and March, and was sponsored by Pearson.
Here are the highlights.
- 89% of college students own a laptop, down from 91% in 2013
- 83% own a smartphone, up from 72% in 2013
- 45% own a tablet, up from40% in 2013
I was not too surprised to read about the high rate of laptop or smartphone adoption, but I was surprised by the comparatively low rate of tablet adoption. It's been almost 5 years since the iPad launched, and yet less than half of college students own one.
What's even more surprising is that yesterday's survey report showed that elementary and middle school students were more likely to own a tablet than college students (51% vs 45%).
I would have expected those figures to be reversed, but in fact the survey found that college students adopt a wait and see attitude with new technology.
- Over half (54%) said they usually wait until they see others try new technology, and then they try it themselves,
- 11% tend to wait a long time with new tech, and
- only 35% described themselves as early adopters.
That wait and see attitude would seem to be in conflict with a later section of the survey which showed that the students were highly optimistic that tablets would change how college students learned. Over 80% thought that, and 66% thought that tablets would replace textbooks, and help students study more effectively.
The combination of optimism and the wait and see policy suggests that students are avoiding the new tech not because of distrust or dislike but because of financial reasons. College is expensive and students are notoriously cash-strapped, leading them to be parsimonious with new purchases - especially expensive ones.
Among those who do own a tablet, most (45%) own a 10" or larger tablet, while 38% own a smaller tablet and 25% own a medium-sized tablet. And 29% of tablet owners also own a matching keyboard.
Gadgets & Coursework
Of the entire survey group, 89% reported using a laptop for schoolwork at least two or three times a week (basically everyone who owned one). A far smaller number used their smartphone (53%, compared to an 83% ownership rate). And even fewer used their tablet for schoolwork on a regular basis (33%, compared to an 45% ownership rate).
The usage rates suggest that college students may be adopting the tech but they are adapting it for use with school at a lower rate than their younger counterparts.
It's going to be interesting to see if that changes as the younger groups age into the college bracket, and possibly bring their device habits with them.
You can find the report here (PDF).