Study: College students not embracing tablets as originally predicted

Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

April 22, 2014

College students are not embracing tablets as many experts had expected when the devices were introduced a few years ago, says a new report from Ball State University.

About 29 percent of students report owning a tablet in 2014, a slight decline since 2012, said Michael Hanley, an advertising professor and director of Ball State's Institute for Mobile Media Research. He has conducted surveys on the use of mobile devices by students since 2004.

The most popular tablet is an iPad, with 14.2 percent owning the devices. The next popular brand is a Galaxy at 1.1 percent while 13.6 percent own a variety of other brands. But 8.2 percent say they plan to buy a tablet in 2014.

“Tablets are for entertainment purposes, not for writing papers and doing class projects — key components of higher education,” Hanley said. “Tablets don’t have the keyboard accessibility and power as compared to laptops and PCs. However, many students plan on getting a tablet when they graduate in order to watch movies, play games or access social media. After graduation and getting a job, you can afford to splurge on entertainment.”

After 10 years of studying media consumption by college students, Hanley says his research continues to show young people are annoyed by mobile ads. About 65 percent of students report receiving mobile ads, and 70 percent of them don’t like it. For smartphone users, 75 percent are getting ads, up 14 percentage points from 2009.

“At one point, students said they would accept ads if they got something like a coupon or free downloads, but now 58 percent of smartphone and feature phone users are not interested in free stuff,” Hanley said. “Marketers are going to have to address how they reach this group.”

The study also found:

  • About 89 percent of smartphone owners use GPS to find locations of restaurants, retail outlets and movie theaters.
  • Parents pay the bill for 61 percent of smartphone and 58 percent of feature phone users.
  • The fastest growing segments for mobile content from 2009-14 are social media (29 to 93 percent), video (24 to 73 percent), weather (45 to 87 percent), GPS (43 to 86 percent), and buying products (16 to 49 percent).
  • Half of students report text messaging while in class.
  • Even though 74 percent of smartphone users browse the Internet daily on their devices, 89 percent of feature phone users never search the Internet with their devices.

The study also found that smartphone use since 2009 surged by 51 percentage points to 89 percent while feature phone use fell to 12 percent from 62 percent.

This complete inversion of mobile device usage reflects the explosive growth of Internet-accessible smartphones versus the decline in text and talk feature phones.

About 80 percent of college students say they watch videos on their smartphones, up from 24 percent in 2009. About 92 percent of smartphone users access social media sites from their mobile device, up from 49 percent in 2009.

“Just a few years ago college students would access social media sites through their laptops or personal computers, but as smartphones have made social media increasingly popular by upgrading cameras,” Hanley said. “Now students can post a photo or video from their phones, allowing them to share their lives instantly – something they love to do.”

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