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US Tablet Ownership Did Not Increase in 2012

Did you catch the new report from Forrester Research today? I don’t have a copy of it myself (behind a paywall), but TechCrunch has reported on it and a few details leaped out at me.

Smartphone ownership is up, with about half of respondents reporting that they owned one.  More importantly, Forrester reported that tablet ownership was also up from last year, with about 19% of Americans owning an iPad, Android tablet, or what have you. Here’s the fun part:

That’s what a similar survey said way back in January.

Earlier this year the Pew Research Center released results of a pair of before and after surveys for the holiday season.  There data showed that tablet ownership in the US went from  11% in December 2011 to 19% in January 2012.

The survey data goes on to cover a lot more than that just that one detail, of course, but that ownership statistic tends to stand out, does it not?

If 19% of Americans owned a tablet in January, and 19% of Americans owned a tablet now, then did anyone buy anything new this past year or did they simply shuffle one gadget for another?

I know that the holiday season is the prime gadget buying period of the year, but what about all the tablet launches we’ve seen this past year? What about the back-to-school sales? Why did they not have any effect on how many tablets are actually in use?

It’s entirely possible that many people are buying multiple tablets, but I’m not sure that would be enough to justify the optimism we are seeing among tablet makers. I mean, tablets continue to be launched like we are in a growing market, but the number of people who own a tablet has not increased.

I’d like to see what Pew says next month after they’ve run their surveys, but if the 2 above stats are both correct then the US tablet market has already plateaued. There’s no one else to sell a tablet to.

If anything, I would think the many launches are a sign of a Tablet Bubble, one which is probably going to burst in the not too distant future. And when that happens we’re likely going to see a run of bankruptcies.

Pandigital, iTomic, and Augen are just the first of the small fry to go; they will not be the last.

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Stephen Beale December 19, 2012 um 3:54 pm

I’m not sure what conclusions you can draw by comparing two different surveys, especially without more information about Forrester’s methodology. For example, when was their data obtained? How was it obtained? As you suggest, a new Pew study will provide a better point of comparison. I just find it hard to believe that the installed base of tablet users hasn’t grown given all the new (and sometimes inexpensive) tablets that were introduced this year.

kei December 19, 2012 um 4:59 pm

Not sure about the details of their statistics. But the population is increasing, so theoretically the same 19% still means more owners.

Nate Hoffelder December 19, 2012 um 5:06 pm

The population has not gone up nearly enough to account for the many tablet launches.

Thomas December 19, 2012 um 5:47 pm

I wonder if this survey takes children into account. I think that a lot of the people buying tablets now are getting them for their kids.

In any case, I bought my first tablet this year, so there was at least some growth!

Xyzzy December 20, 2012 um 6:37 am

I agree that it sounds a tad iffy to state that there has been *no* growth… Even if that is accurate, it looks to me like the tablet & cellphone markets have followed a compressed version of the general growth pattern that computers did, and in that case the rate of ownership will increase in stages as prices gradually decrease.

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