Tablets in High Demand, but Many Don't Pay for a Data Plan: CEA

Among 3G- and 4G-enabled tablet owners, only half (49 percent) pay for a data plan, according to the association's Consumer Outlook on Tablets.

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.

Among 3G- and 4G-enabled tablet owners, only half (49 percent) pay for a data plan, according to the association’s Consumer Outlook on Tablets: Q4 2013 report, which examines trend information on consumer behavior and sentiment regarding tablet computers from July through September 2013.

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

Tablet ownership rates remain steady since last quarter, with four in 10 (41 percent) online U.S. consumers indicate they own a tablet as of September 2013–holding steady with ownership since March 2013 (40 percent).

On a demographic basis, tablet ownership remains highest for adults ages 25-34 this quarter at 52 percent, while ownership rates among adults ages 35-44 is 48 percent.

One-quarter of respondents said they are paying for a tablet data plan separately from any other data plan they may have, and 23 percent said they are paying for a bundled data plan with their existing smartphone. The remaining half of owners (50 percent) say they do not pay for a data plan.

"There is a disconnect between consumers that own a 3G/4G-enabled tablet and the consumers that feel the need to pay for the data connectivity," Tara Hutton, director of market research at CEA, said in a statement. "As we head into the holiday season with excitement around recent product announcements, tablets will garner strong sales and will present the opportunity to sell the benefits of cellular connectivity to consumers."

Consumer electronics spending is projected to edge up 2.6 percent this holiday season, compared with 4 percent growth in 2012, according to another recent report from the CEA, with tablets and video game consoles topping consumers’ wish lists.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents who are planning to purchase gifts this holiday season intend to buy consumer electronics products as gifts, allocating one-third of their overall holiday gift budgets to these types of offerings.

Headphones and earbuds (40 percent) will be the most popular consumer electronics device given this holiday season, while cases for electronic devices (27 percent) will also be popular this year, followed by tablets (26 percent), smartphones (24 percent) and notebook computers (23 percent).