Mobility is reshaping mainstream consumer behavior in fundamental ways, as household adoption and spending on consumer technology products shifts faster than expected in favor of gadgets and services that are portable or mobile, according to a report by IT research firm Gartner.
The survey of more than 8,000 consumers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) also found devices that deliver networking capabilities and entertainment, such as smartphones and tablets, were growing in popularity, with falling prices and increased technology performance acting as the primary drivers of increasing adoption and multiple purchases.
The average household spending by users of tablets, e-readers, notebooks and digital cameras has fallen even as household penetration of these devices has increased; the average spend on a tablet was $503 in 2012, down from $624 in 2010, while household penetration shot to 17 percent from just 3 percent. However, the average spend on smartphones—which boast a penetration rate of 94 percent—climbed to $289 in 2012 from $173 in 2010.
"Early adopters tend to leave the home laptop in the bag and are abandoning the home office in favor of the lounge room couch or bedroom to do online activities in a more comfortable environment using a tablet or smartphone," Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "This early adopter trend is becoming mainstream consumer behavior. Consequently, technology and service providers are faced with no alternative but to innovate for mobility. If they do nothing, they face a potential train wreck as consumers abandon gadgets, services and applications that do not fully support changing mobile lifestyles."
The study also indicated consumers are spending more on average on other devices as they upgrade to gadgets such as smartphones and smart TVs from less expensive legacy products such as TVs and desktop computers, which have the highest mean years between upgrades at four-and-a-half years and four years, respectively.
Replacement and upgrades of fixed devices such as desktop PCs and game consoles will be deferred or abandoned as consumers find they can do most of what they want on more recently purchased portable devices anywhere they want, when they want, the report noted, adding newer product classes such as tablets and e-readers have yet to be replaced by the majority of respondents.
Gartner analysts said the shift to more mobile devices and applications also provides opportunities for OEMs to deliver Internet access and content as well as to accelerate the development of mobile solutions and portable extensions to traditionally fixed products and services, such as providing home media hubs that provide storage and remote retrieval to a personal cloud.
"Where they are occurring, the lengthening of gadget replacement cycles reflects a mixture of economic pressures on the consumer wallet and hardware product maturity," Amanda Sabia, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "Increasingly, upgrades are taking place in software, content and application ecosystems supported by cloud services, relieving the requirement for hardware upgrades."