Led by the iPad, the tablet market has taken off with a bang, but even with all the hoopla, less than 5 percent of U.S. consumers polled by Nielsen actually own one.
Tablets represent a huge potential money maker for the industry based on what consumers will pay not just for the device but all the content they need and want. Yet Nielsen's data, presented at the paidContent Mobile conference this week, shows that it's a market with considerable room to grow.
Adoption of tablets has risen over the past year to 4.8 percent in this year's first quarter from 2.9 percent in the second quarter of 2010. That's not bad for a niche that's relatively new, says Nielsen. But it still pales in comparison to the popularity of other types of consumer gadgets.
Among the 12,000 U.S. consumers whom Nielsen polled, 36 percent own smartphones, 13 percent own media players, 9 percent own an e-book reader, and 8 percent own a Netbook. Each of those devices has grown in usage over the past year, with the exception of media players, which have stayed relatively flat.
Drilling down further into the tablet market, Nielsen found to no surprise that Apple's iPad dominates, owned by 82 percent of tablet users polled. Samsung's Galaxy Tab is owned by 4 percent, the Dell Streak by 3 percent, and the Motorola Xoom by 2 percent. The remaining 9 percent own an assortment of other tablets.
But that small crowd of tablet adopters already is generating income for the industry. Compared with users of smartphones and other gadgets, tablet owners watch more videos, read and pay for more books, are more willing to watch ads, and are more prone to buy an item after seeing an ad. And as tablet adoption rises past that 5 percent number, the overall industry should be in store for a surge in revenue from digital content.
Looking at how people use their favorite mobile devices, Nielsen found that 70 percent of tablet owners and 68 percent of smartphone owners use their gadgets while watching TV. That compares with only 35 percent of e-reader owners who use their devices in front of the TV set.
And when it's time to turn in for the night, 61 percent of e-reader owners use their devices in bed, compared with 57 percent of tablet owners and 51 percent of smartphone owners who do the same.
Owners also reported using their devices less frequently at other times, such as when attending a meeting or class, hanging out with friends or family, or answering nature's call.