Our emerging Tablet Nation

Nearly half of all Internet users in U.S. expected to own tablets by Q2 2013

Almost half of all Internet-using Americans between the ages of 8 and 64 will own a tablet device a year from now, according to a survey by the Online Publishers Association. The OPA survey of more than 2,500 U.S. Internet users shows that U.S. tablet adoption as of March was 31%, or 74 million tablet users. That's up from 12% (28 million tablet users) last year. Tablet adoption in the U.S. is expected to reach 47% (117.4 million) by the second quarter of next year, OPA forecasts. It's hard to see how tablets can become as widespread as cellphones (234 million Americans own one) or even smartphones (106 million), but unless something dramatic happens -- a totally new form factor, an alien invasion, etc. -- more than half of all Internet users in the U.S. will be tablet owners by 2014. And it's likely those tablet owners will get plenty of use out of their devices. According to the OPA survey, "the majority of tablet users are on their tablets several times a day, averaging 13.9 hours per week." Other glimpses of Tablet Nation: * 56% of current tablet users are men, but the percentage of women tablet users grew to 44% this year from 40% a year ago. * Americans in the 25-34 age group (28%) were most likely to own a tablet, though the No. 2 age group (21%) was 35-44. The percentage of tablet users from 8 through 24 fell 8% from last year. * 60% of survey respondents reported using their tablets several times a day. (Interestingly, 3% of tablet owners say they use their devices less than once a month or never. ) * Peak hours for tablet use in the U.S. are 5 to 11 p.m. * 67% of tablet usage occurs in the home, with 15% at school, 14% in the car or commuting (let's hope it's more of the latter), and 4% while shopping. * Content is king. A whopping 94% of respondents said they use their tablets to find content and information, up from 87% a year ago. The No. 1 form of content? Short videos. Accessing the Internet is activity No. 2 (67%), with checking email close behind (66%). Two tablet uses that haven't increased over the past year are "read books," still stuck at 42% (next to last among tablet activities) and "making purchases," still last and still at 31%. (Is that last metric meaningless or should this be a concern to online advertisers and merchants?) * 71% of tablet users prefer a tablet over a mobile phone for reading. We can only speculate what's going on with the other 29%. * Only 23% of apps downloaded by tablet users over the past year have been paid, though 72% of tablet apps downloaders have paid at least dollar for an app. * In the past 12 months, users spent an average of $359 buying products from tablets, with the top categories being "media and entertainment" (22% of tablet users) and "retail and apparel" (21%). The OPA survey results also include data on multitasking, tablet activities broken out by operating systems, and payment preferences.

Chris Nerney writes ITworld's Tech Business Today blog. Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisNerney. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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