Air travelers gravitate to tablets for convenient connectivity
US travelers of all types are buying tablets, but airline passengers are adopting these devices at a particularly fast pace. A recent study, “The Growing Use of Tablets and other Portable Electronic Devices on Intercity Buses, Trains, and Planes,” conducted by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at Chicago’s DePaul University, developed data from observations of 7,770 passengers on 92 air, bus and train departures in December 2011.
The data shows that travelers are increasingly abandoning simple, audio-oriented activities in favor of devices with LCD screens that allow for surfing the web, watching movies, listening to music and reading books. Over the past two years, audio usage fell from 9.1% of passengers on commercial flights to 5.2%.
Tablets, in particular, account for a growing share of the multi-use devices travelers are adopting. The survey noted that 8.4% of airline passengers were observed using a tablet at some point during their flight, compared to 5.9% of Amtrak passengers and 3.7% of travelers on curbside bus companies like BoltBus and MegaBus.
While 8.4% may not seem like an overwhelming figure—it’s approximately one person every two rows in a three-and-three seat arrangement—tablets share of electronic devices used in travel overall tells a deeper story. Tablets accounted for just under 30% of all mobile devices used on planes, including smartphones, portable DVD players, iPods and the like.
According to the April 2012 release of TripAdvisor’s annual air travel poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 US travelers, the use of tablets and iPads in-flight is up 15%, with more than one in four travelers now calling theirs a carry-on essential.
Much of the reason for that increased usage is increased sales: Tablet sales worldwide are expected to nearly double in 2012, then increase by 50% between 2012 and 2013, and double again between 2013 and 2016, according to Gartner’s “Forecast: Media Tablets by Operating System Worldwide, 2010-2016, 1Q12 Update,” released in April 2012.
For many travelers, tablets have several advantages over laptops, notebooks and bulkier devices, specifically on airplanes: Their small size makes them easy to use in crowded coach cabins; their quick activation speeds are convenient for short trips and where electronic and Wi-Fi disruptions are common; and their suitability for reading, watching videos and game playing makes them ideal for passengers seeking to pass the time with minimal hassle.
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