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NPD: Use Of Cellular-Connected Tablets Growing

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. – Tablets with embedded cellular modems accounted for a shrinking share of retail-level U.S. tablet sales in 2013, yet the installed base of tablets with an embedded modem and active cellular subscription grew by 46 percent, The NPD Group found.

The company attributed the installed-base growth to the launch of carrier’s data-share plans, which reduce the relative cost of powering cellular-capable tablets, NPD told TWICE. In the past, many consumers purchased cellular-equipped tablets but didn’t activate them, NPD said.

The share of cellularequipped tablets could grow in the future for multiple reasons, NPD added.

In 2013, a total of 10.4 million tablets incorporated embedded cellular connections and an active subscription, up 46 percent from 7.1 million in 2012, according to NPD’s Connected Intelligence Mobile Connectivity Report, which surveyed 3,000 consumers in November 2013. At the same time, cellular-capable tablets declined from 16 percent of retail-level tablet sales in 2012 to 12 percent in 2013, excluding Amazon’s Kindle, according to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service.

NPD also found growth in the number of consumers connecting their tablets to the Internet via dedicated mobile hot spots and via a smartphone’s hot-spot feature. A total of 6 million consumers connect their tablets to the Internet via a smartphone’s hot spot, and another 1.8 million connect via a dedicated mobile hotspot device, NPD’s connectivity report found.

All told, 57 percent of consumers who connected their tablet to the Internet in 2013 did do so via embedded cellular modem, and 33 percent did so via a smartphone’s hot-spot feature. Ten percent connected their tablet via a mobile hot spot.

“As more consumers test the waters with cellular hot-spot options, and the carriers continue to roll out new trade-in and upgrade programs, there is a far greater probability that consumers will purchase their next tablet with an embedded cellular connection,” said Brad Akyuz, director of Connected Intelligence.

“Cellular tablet use is still in its early days and, unlike smartphones, significant tablet cellular use is the exception, rather than the norm,” added Akyuz. “Still, the most important factor is that more people are beginning to try the cellular-data option. If they find a compelling use case, we will see these use patterns grow aggressively.” In another finding, NPD said consumers who connected their tablets through embedded cellular used just under 1 GB of data per month. Smartphone users, in contrast, average closer to 2GB of data each month.