The pandemic has led many to turn their homes into makeshift offices and classrooms to work and learn remotely, so naturally consumers have purchased a host of new tech products. In May, CivicScience reported the most popular new tech purchases were small ones — connectors, dongles, and earphones. Today, those are still the most popular items. But what about larger new tech purchases such as computers or tablets?
Data collected over the last 30 days show new tablet and computer purchases at 7% of U.S. adults, up one percentage point from May. A separate survey tracking laptops indicates a stall in laptop purchases, with 87% of survey respondents saying they have not purchased one in the last month and don’t plan to. But the data tell a different story for tablets.
A New York Times article published in April 2020 argued that “Apple’s iPad is the Gadget of the Pandemic,” writing that “the tech we have turned to over and over boils down to a computing device, communication tools, entertainment and an internet connection. The iPad delivers on all of those needs even better than a smartphone.”
The NYT was on to something. Before the pandemic, tablet ownership was at 54% (January 2020) but grew to 58% during lockdowns and quarantine. Now, month-to-date data for September show another increase on the horizon, bringing tablet ownership close to 60% of U.S. adults.
Most tablet users report using tablets primarily to access news and information rather than social media, games, email, or videos. But in the past few months, people who report using a tablet for something other than the options listed have grown. A quick analysis of what might be considered another use for an iPad could easily be distance learning or homework, both of which have increased this month. And considering purchases of laptops have stalled, it is likely people are also incorporating tablets into more daily tasks and activities.
Overall Technology Behaviors
Over the past nine months, there have been some notable changes to how people are using technology during the pandemic. For instance, consumers reported a spike in self-described “technology addiction” in March and April, a significant jump from February that then dropped again in May. Around this same time, consumers reported an increase in the need to “unplug” from devices for at least two hours a day. However, both behaviors have leveled out in the months since, as people seem to be more accustomed to living and working during the pandemic. (Percentages for September represent month-to-date data.)
It’s possible that as schools begin to reopen this fall, purchases related to remote learning will pick up. As CNBC reported in late August, tech retailers have seen a significant dip in back-to-school purchases in the absence of in-person classes. But they “anticipate that school-related spending may strengthen and stretch out over a number of months as districts make decisions and students start more in-person learning in the fall or early 2021.”
This CivicScience report was meant to serve as a topline view into the kinds of topics we study. If you want even more in-depth insights, cross-tabs, and segments about your consumer, we should talk.