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The debate around whether tablets should be classed as mobile has resurfaced here in the new media age office and, surprisingly, I’ve changed my mind to argue that they are not.

The launch of the iPad first raised the argument last year and I came down on the side of it being a mobile (nma.co.uk 3 June 2010). This is namely because of the iPad’s association with the App Store and iOS which left it firmly within the grasp of established mobile marketing and agency teams.

After all, many mobile agency teams I speak to claim they struggle for mindshare when it comes to carving up the media budget. A shiny new Apple product – the iPad – presented an opportunity for agencies to dangle in front of a client or digital agency director, then surely they’d gain a few more minutes of a person’s attention. That was my initial reasoning but as I remember, the initial debate within the office was concluded with ‘we’ll have to wait and see’.

Over a year later and with ever-mounting research indicating consumer attitudes towards the devices, it looks like we can take a more considered look at things.

Even though iPads and other tablet-based devices can come equipped with a 3G data plans, there is a lack of publicly available info on usage. However, it seems the media-rich capabilities of the device has warded-off consumer uptake of supporting 3G packages. Last week, research from CCS Insight found that only 15% of tablet users use their devices for their daily commute. The report also explicitly cited concerns over expensive mobile data charges for the vast majority of tablet users leaving their devices at home. So with all that said, should advertisers really be considering tablets when looking to target users while on the move?

The same thinking can be applied to what retailers and publishers are doing to see how the ’iPad debate’ applies to them. Last week, new media age also revealed that Arcadia’s Topshop is seeing 8% of its digital sales coming from mobile – that’s “if you include iPad in there” (nma.co.uk 1 November 2011).

A further breakdown of the stats was not forthcoming, but conversations with retailers including Debenhams and New Look also indicated that most ’m-commerce’ came from the home. I therefore came to the conclusion that retailers should use mobiles to drive traffic in-store (nma.co.uk 31 October 2011) and then think of tablets as an extension of their existing ecommerce platform and hand it to their online team.

Meanwhile, we’ve also had two of the UK’s major newspaper brands release their first official iPads apps in the last month, both coming with hefty price tags, up to £20 a month in the case of The Independent (nma.co.uk 31 October 2011).

Both [iPad] apps are undoubtedly impressive in their functionality and early download figures from The Guardian, which has yet to erect its iPad paywall, have been been stellar. But if most tablet devices are being used at the home, then what are the actual subscription figures going to be like when both have a free-to-access website as an alternative? I’m unsure.   

As always, I’m open for debate and welcome alternative thoughts on the matter as consumer trends are likely to evolve still. But as things stand, with high mobile data tariffs and relatively limited public Wi-Fi availability, tablet devices will remain at home, therefore should not be termed as mobile.

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Published 7 November, 2011 by NMA Staff

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