Embedded Tablet Cellular Connections Increase 46 Percent in US in 2013, According to NPD

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PORT WASHINGTON NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 25, 2014 – In 2013 there were 10.4 million tablets utilizing embedded cellular connections in the U.S. up from 7.1 million in 2012 a 46 percent increase, according to the latest Connected Intelligence Mobile Connectivity Report. The increase in connections comes despite sales of cellular-capable tablets declining from 16 percent of total tablet sales in 2012 to 12 percent in 2013, according to NPD's Retail Tracking Service*.

One of the main reasons for the increase in embedded cellular connections is mobile carriers offering more affordable data plans. In the past consumers were purchasing tablets with 3G and 4G connectivity and just not activating them, now there is an uptick in those connections.

"The fourth quarter was a good one for the top four carriers, with the addition of around 1.5 million new tablet subscribers," said Brad Akyuz, director, Connected Intelligence. "Even though AT&T and Verizon captured almost 90 percent of all tablet connections in the market, Sprint had a very good quarter and T-Mobile has a lot of potential with their new data plans."

But the tablet connections tell only part of the story. According to the Connected Intelligence Data Consumption Report, in the fourth quarter, consumers who connected their tablets through embedded cellular used just under 1 GB of data per month. By contrast, smartphone users average closer to 2GB of data each month, showing that tablet cellular data is still the back-up plan, rather than the main connection method.

"Cellular tablet use is still in its early days and, unlike smartphones, significant tablet cellular use is the exception, rather than the norm," said 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."

Direct tablet connections via an embedded modem are only one way consumers are connecting. There is also a healthy increase in the number of connections through mobile and smartphone hotspots among consumers, meaning that they are discovering times in the day when they absolutely need the convenience of an always-on connection. There are 7.8 million consumers connecting their tablets to the Internet via cellular hotspot, 6 million via smartphone hotspots and 1.8 million via an external mobile hotspot device.

Source: The NPD Group/Connected Intelligence, Mobile Connectivity Report

"As more consumers test the waters with cellular hotspot 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 Akyuz.

*Tablet numbers from NPD's Retail Tracking Service exclude Kindle.

Methodology

Mobile Connectivity Report
The Mobile Connectivity Report is published bi-annually and uses a mix of various proprietary sources including NPD's consumer panel and point-of-sale data, as well as public sources such as U.S. wireless carrier financial and operational KPI data.  Approximately 3,000 U.S. consumers were surveyed in November 2013 for the latest report.

Data Consumption Report
The Data Consumption report is published monthly and based on information collected through the NPD Connected Intelligence SmartMeter. More than 1,500 consumers with Android and iOS devices opt-in to the SmartMeter panel and are continuously tracked through an app on their devices.

About Connected Intelligence
Connected Intelligence provides competitive intelligence and insight on the rapidly evolving consumer's connected environment. The service focuses on the three core components of the connected market: the device, the broadband access that provides the connectivity and the content that drives consumer behavior. These three pillars of the connected ecosystem are analyzed through a comprehensive review of what is available, adopted, and consumed by the customer, as well as reviewing how the market will evolve over time and what the various vendors can do to best position themselves in this evolving market. For more information: http://www.connected-intelligence.com. Follow Connected Intelligence on Twitter: @npdci.