Tablet Takeover? The Impact of Tablet Computers

Since the concept of the tablet was created in 1963 with the RAND tablet, it has grown and developed far beyond its original intentions. The spread of this innovation has grown significantly in the past ten years, particularly since 2010.

Changes in Consumption- What happened to previous technology?

  • 66% of Americans own at least two of the following: smartphone, desktop or laptop computer, or tablet. 36% own all three.
  • 68% of adults now have a smartphone, nearly double what it was mid-2011.
  • 45% of U.S. adults own a tablet.
  • 62% of college graduates have a tablet, compared with 35% of those with a high school diploma and 19% who have not completed high school.
  • 19% of adults report owning an e-reader (i.e., Kindle or Nook) primarily for reading e-books. This is a sizable drop from early 2014 (32%).
  • 73% of U.S. adults own a desktop or laptop computer. This number is roughly similar to the levels of a decade ago. In 2012, this number was at 80%.
  • Game console ownership has remained consistent since 2010 (40%).
  • 14% of U.S. adults have a portable gaming device such as a PSP or Sega Genesis game player, similar to 2009.
  • Today, 40% of U.S. adults have an iPod or other MP3 player; in 2013, that share was 43%. This is not a significant change since the 2000s.

Comm 3600 media graphic

  • Overall, new technology has been supplementing (rather than displacing) previous devices and media.
    • Mobile phone of any kind – 91% tablet owners, 74% non-owners
      • Smartphone – 70% tablet owners, 39% non-owners
    • TV any kind – 82% tablet owners, 74% non-owners
      • HDTV – 71% tablet owners, 55% non-owners
    • Laptop computer – 78% tablet owners, 60% non-owners
    • Digital camera of any kind – 75% tablet owners, 59% non-owners
    • Standalone DVD or Blu-ray player – 62% tablet owners, 51% non-owners
    • Home video game console – 55% tablet owners, 33% non-owners
    • Digital video recorder or DVR (TiVo, etc.) – 42% tablet owners, 27% non-owners
    • E-reader – 23% tablet owners, 14% non-owners
    • Handheld video game console – 23% tablet owners, 11% non-owners
    • Set-top streaming media box (Roku, Apple TV, etc.) – 13% tablet owners, 3% non-owners

How does this affect our behavior, particularly for children?

  • Teenagers spend an average of nine hours per day on media use (through TV, Internet, smartphones, and so on) for purposes other than school or homework, and that children ages 8 to 12 spend about six hours per day in these activities.
  • On a typical day, 81% of parents say that their child(ren) that are 5 years old or younger watch TV or movies or play games on any type of electronic device (such as a computer, tablet or cell phone). About 32% of parents whose children have daily screen time worry that their children spend too much time on these devices, although 65% of parents think their children’s screen time is about right.
  • However, children still participate in activities outside of media. comm 3600 child participation graphic
  • The US Census Bureau plans to integrate technological innovation into their survey process by 2020. They believe this will encourage more people to participate and save them billions of dollars.

comm 3600 census bureau graphic

  • There is evidence that people are “addicted” to their technology, particularly their smartphones. The fear of being away from one’s mobile phone is called nomophobia. More than half of Americans have a television in their room and only 13% are without a “screen” of any kind (Television, smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer).


What does this innovation make possible?

With our society’s new focus on self-monitoring, technology is becoming more and more central to our lives.  Chloe Fan, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computer Interaction Institute, decided to take a year off grad school to pursue her dreams regarding data visualization and self-tracking apps. Spark, the product of Fan’s dream, is taking the typical exercise tracking app and making it entertaining.  As the user walks, runs, or jogs throughout the day, the app creates a piece of digital abstract art to show their progress. The size of each circle in the picture designates intensity of activity. Users in a study expressed that the colors, variety of image styles, and challenge of filling up the screen motivated them to be more active. Although the app was in its early stages in 2012, those who are interested can test it out: It connects to Google and FitBit accounts, and the app uses FitBit data to complete the pictures.

Another innovation is the Lullaby project. Many devices and applications, like FitBit or Zeo, only track how you sleep. Matthew Kay, a PhD student in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, alongside Julie Kientz and Shwetak Patel, was inspired by his own poor sleep habits and decided to develop technology to understand improve people’s sleep. Lullaby connects automated sleep-tracking with environmental factors, meaning sound, light, temperature, and motion. While the user wears an off-the-shelf sleep-tracker, an Android tablet collects and presents all of the environmental and biological data. Lullaby contains an infrared camera and audio recorder to allow you to see and hear what disrupts your sleep patterns, allowing you to make adjustments for a good night’s sleep.

Shopping: Do we prefer online or brick-and-mortar?

Online shopping has become so popular that we had to create a “holiday” around it: Cyber Monday. Shoppers are more likely to buy online if there is the offer of free shipping or they need the product as soon as possible. However, there is still a clear preference for shopping in-person.

  • 78% of U.S. adults indicated an in-person preference for general food purchases such as groceries.
  • 67% preferred traditional shopping for over the counter medications
    • 58% when it came to prescription medications
  • 65% wanted to be in-person when purchasing clothing
  • 57% in-person for cosmetics/grooming products as well as specialty food and beverages
  • 55% traditional for household electronics
  • 52% in-person for accessories
  • 43% for in-person shopping for personal electronics vs. 22% with an online shopping preference

For more information on tablets, their impact, and their history:


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Li, I. (2012, March 27). Personal Informatics in Practice − Lullaby: Capturing the Unconscious in the Sleep Environment – Quantified Self. Retrieved March, 2016, from
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