Smartphones are killing laptops and desktops, but tablet sales grow

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More Americans own tablet than did two years ago. The same can't be said of laptop and desktop ownership.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The number of Americans who own an iPad or other tablet computer increased marginally in the past two years. However, ownership of a laptop/desktop has dropped significantly in the same period.

Smartphone ownership stayed at the high rate it’s held since 2016. And that’s what’s really cutting into sales of traditional computers.

These figures come from The Pew Research Center, who surveyed Americans about their online habits and gadget ownership. It began doing so in 1994 when just 6 percent of Americans used the Internet.

Tablet ownership on the rise

According to the consumer-research firm, tablet ownership has increased from 51 percent to 53 percent in the past two years.

Ownership was at just 3 percent in 2010, the same year Apple introduced the first iPad. The percentage of people with a tablet climbed sharply since then, and hasn’t seen a decline since 2013.

Among Americans 18 years old to 49 years old, the tablet ownership rate is 58 percent. And it’s at 66 percent among people with a college education, and 72 percent among households making over $75K annually.

Apple’s iPad made up 34.9 percent of global tablet sales in the second quarter of this year. The company has enjoyed six straight quarters of increasing shipments.

Laptops and desktops not so much

Curiously, Pew only began tracking ownership of desktop and laptop computers in 2008, when the percentage of Americans that owned one was at 74 percent.

In the intervening decade, the share gradually rose to 78 percent, but dropped sharply to 73 percent in the last two years.

Part of the reason for this decline is the number of people who are going “smartphone-only.”  Those who own a smartphone but don’t subscribe to a traditional home broadband service has grown from 12 percent to 20 percent in the past two years, according to Pew’s latest survey.

It’s mostly poorer or less educated Americans who are choosing to forgo a traditional home computer. Pew says 91 percent of college graduates have a laptop/desktop, and 92 percent of households making over $75K. 

It seems like it comes down to budgeting. If someone can’t afford both mobile and home Internet service, they choose mobile. And then there’s less reason to own a laptop.

As of the second quarter of this year, Apple has 6.9% of the global computer market, according to IDC.

Smartphones, smartspeakers, etc.

According to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans have an iPhone or other smartphone. That’s the exact same percentage as in 2016.

Among those 18 to 49 years old the ownership rate is at 91%. College grads have a smartphone at that same rate, while 93 percent of households making over $75K annually have one.

Pew says 95 percent of Americans have some kind of cellphone. 

According to a survey done last year, 46 percent of Americans use Siri or another digital voice assistant, either on their smartphone or a device like the Apple HomePod.