Yankee Group: Mobile devices top US consumer electronics shopping lists

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Carl Howe

     Carl Howe

Mobile devices form the majority of the consumer electronic devices that holiday shoppers plan to buy this year. Young men are the primary forces behind the mobile devices boom, and their enthusiasm for smartphones and non-mobile HDTVs have pushed laptops down in the rankings. Yankee Group expects this trend to usher the U.S. into a post-PC era where tablets, not PCs, dominate consumer computing device ownership.

U.S. consumers weary from Hurricane Sandy and the hot air associated with the presidential election are getting ready to do what American consumers always do: They are going shopping for the holidays. According to Yankee Group's 2012 US Consumer Survey, September, two-thirds of U.S. consumers intend to buy some type of consumer electronic device within the next six months. Given the slow, steady recovery in the U.S. and the wealth of new mobile devices available, Yankee Group expects that, just like last year, mobile devices will top most consumers' shopping lists.

Yankee Group analyzed data from its 2012 U.S. and European consumer surveys and found that post-PC mobile devices have pushed to the top of consumer buying lists this year, but household devices such as HDTVs, desktop computers and DVRs remain in the mix too. While mobile devices may be big sellers to help people find their way to Grandma's house for the holidays, those same people are also investing in devices that help them curl up with their families to watch movies and play games when they get there.

Last year's holiday shopping report had four mobile devices ranking in the top five devices consumers intended to buy, with laptops topping the list. This year, the landscape is different because:

  • Smartphones now top the list. Thirty-seven percent of consumers intend to buy a smartphone in the next six months, putting this category at the top of the 2012 holiday shopping list (see Exhibit 1). In 2011, we had combined smartphones and mobile phones into one category, and it still was only the third most popular device for holiday shopping, but the fall product launches of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5, HTC's Windows 8x and Samsung's Galaxy Note II have clearly catapulted smartphones into the forefront of consumers' minds this year.
  • Household electronics have made a comeback. HDTVs were the ninth most popular device in 2011, but they have jumped to take the No. 2 spot in 2012. Further, video game consoles such as the Sony Playstation 3 and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Box 360 have climbed up the charts to the fifth most popular device, up three spots from 2011.
  • E-readers are less popular. In 2011, e-readers were our fourth most popular device. In 2012, e-readers such as Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Paperwhite and Barnes & Noble's Nook rank seventh, behind such stodgy devices as desktop computers. Compared with the latest smartphones, laptops and tablets, e-readers just aren't as popular with consumers as they were last year.

EXHIBIT 1: Smartphones are at the Top of Consumer Buying Lists This Year

Source: Yankee Group's 2012 U.S. Consumer Survey, Sept. 2012

US Holiday Buying Intent

In 2011, women had a higher buying intent than men for five out of the top nine devices. This year, only one device garnered more buying interest from women than men.

The 2012 survey results show us that:

  • Men show more interest in buying devices overall. Sixty-nine percent of men in our 2012 survey said that they intend to buy one of the devices listed within the next six months, whereas only 64 percent of women said the same. That higher inclination to buy is reflected in every device category save one…
  • More women than men intend to buy e-readers. Fourteen percent of women intend to buy e-readers in the next six months, narrowly edging past the 13 percent of men who intend to do so. This result isn't surprising because, according to the same survey, women spend an average of 49 minutes a day reading books, where males only spend an average of 25 minutes per day. Women are more likely to buy e-readers simply because they read more.

What we are seeing in our holiday shopping trends is that the post-PC era of mobile devices has taken hold in the U.S. This trend is even more dramatic in Europe, where laptop computers don't even crack the top three on the list of the most popular devices for holiday shopping. Mobile devices now make up the majority of the top five devices consumers intend to purchase for the holidays for two years in a row, a trend we believe is here to stay. Consumer intent to buy tablets already rivals that of laptops, and we fully expect it to exceed laptops in 2013 as new devices such as the Kindle Fire HD, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexus tablets, Surface and Galaxy Tab all gain followings. Yankee Group predicts that today's U.S.$436 billion global mobile devices market will grow to U.S.$847 billion by 2016; we believe these devices will be strong drivers of that growth.

Carl Howe is Vice President of Yankee Group's Data Sciences group and also leads its research into mobile devices. In his data sciences role, Carl oversees all Yankee Group's carrier monitoring, survey, and forecasting products and has led its work in interactive data analysis and visualization.  In his research role, he examines and measures how mobile networks, devices, and content transform the ways that consumers live. Carl holds a S.B. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has served on the faculty of MIT and Wellesley College.

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