Tablet Owners Prefer WiFi to Data Plans, Due to Cost

The report found 45 percent of respondents with a 3G- or 4G-capable tablet did not use this capability, citing WiFi availability as the main reason.

The unprecedented use of tablets at a mass-market level in Western countries has many implications for operators and device manufacturers, with 43 percent of respondents to an Analysys Mason survey saying they did not buy the tablet that they use.

Instead, many tablets were given as gifts by friends and family (39 percent) or provided by an employer (4 percent), and also revealed that less than 10 percent of tablet respondents in the United Kingdom and the United States use cellular networks to connect their tablet.

The report found 45 percent of respondents with a 3G- or 4G-capable tablet who did not use this capability said that WiFi availability was the main reason for not enabling a SIM in their device.

Sixteen percent of respondents indicated that the tablet they use did not belong to them. Among those, 60 percent of the devices belonged to a family member, most likely living in the same household, and 26 percent belonged to an employer. Family members accounted for a significant majority (79 percent) of tablets given as gifts.

The survey indicated the price of cellular connectivity is not declining as fast as the average retail price of tablets, which has increased the percentage of the total cost of ownership (TCO) that is attributed to service charges.

For example, the TCO over 12 months for the Long Term Evolution (LTE) version of Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX with a 5GB monthly data plan on AT&T is four times higher than the cost of a WiFi-only Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, because of the high data charges.

"Tablets are mostly used at home, at work and in public places, where WiFi is commonplace, particularly in developed markets," the report noted. "WiFi is also used while on the move via smartphone tethering."

Replacement rates for tablets are relatively long, particularly in the most mature markets. According to the survey results, 49 percent of tablet owners in the United States and 46 percent in the U.K. expect to keep their tablet for more than two years.

Tablets are the most desired gift on consumers’ tech gift wish lists this year, according to Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) 20th annual consumer electronics (CE) holiday purchase patterns study.

While consumers want tablets for themselves, they also plan to give them as gifts, with 26 percent of gift givers planning to buy tablets in the fourth quarter, higher than any other mobile connected device, the CEA report found.