NPD: US Semand for 3G, 4G Tablets Falling

Posted by at 7:11 pm on December 12, 2011

The use of tablets with 3G and 4G is declining, the NPD Group said Monday. Those in the US running on Wi-Fi only saw their numbers grow from 60 to 65 percent between April and December. Most of the gain came at the expense of cellular version owners, although some of it came from those who stopped using offline-only tablets.

The jump was explained as coming from the inherent nature of tablets. Most users can’t justify the cost of a second data plan, especially when Wi-Fi was often available in so many areas that it was “good enough” for most people, NPD VP Eddie Hold said. If they needed to get online, they often already had their smartphones.

That shift towards Wi-Fi was only likely to get stronger, researchers said. Cheap tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire were attracting more casual users, many of whom either didn’t care for cellular data or couldn’t justify it the way an early adopter might.

A mounting bias towards Wi-Fi would help explain poor non-iPad tablet sales in the US. HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung are so far still wedded to 3G and 4G versions of their tablets and have often made assumptions that Android’s successful business model would automatically repeat itself in tablets. The frequently high prices and, in some cases, forced contracts not only make Android tablets look more expensive than the iPad but limit the audience to those who want cellular data but can’t just share a connection from the phone.

Apple’s success in tablets has been partly credited to its having Wi-Fi iPads from the start, as well as its insistence that any 3G data be available prepaid, not just on contract.

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