Tablet Usage Is on a Serious Upswing

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New research says that 18.5% of all marketing emails were opened on a tablet in Q1 2014. That's up more than 5% since just nine months ago.

Jordan Cohen called it. When we last spoke with Cohen, VP of marketing at agile email company Movable Ink back in August 2013, he predicted major growth potential in the tablet market, noting that while still “in its infancy,” it was definitely an area to watch. And just about nine months down the road, here we are: According to new research from Movable Ink, the number of marketing emails opened on a tablet shot up from 13.8% in Q2 2013 to 18.5% in the first quarter of this year.

“From a consumer electronic shopping perspective, it seems like more consumers are using tablets as their go-to device, rather than the desktop,” Cohen says. “Desktops won't go away completely—we still have phones and the postal mail, too—but I do see room for tablets to gain more and more market share from the desktop.”

If not yet king, tablets are definitely doing their part to chip away at desktop usage. But, for the first time this year, tablets are also taking a bit of market share away from their mobile brother, the smartphone. While more than 47% of email opens took place on a smartphone in Q1 2014—66% of all email opens happened on a mobile device (tablets and smartphones combined)—that number is actually down slightly from 48.2% last quarter.

Another interesting bit of data from the report: Consumers open more emails on Apple devices—but spend more time with their emails on Android devices. Apple products accounted for 54.5% of all email opens in Q1 2014 (up from 49.9% in Q4 2013); by comparison, only 10.8% of email opens took place on an Android device, down from 14.4% last quarter. But Android users viewed their emails for 15 seconds longer, on average, than their iOS counterparts.

While Cohen admitted it's a bit of a puzzler, he did posit a theory—namely, that images don't render consistently or quickly on Android devices, meaning users have to wait to see their messages.

“Newer devices, like the latest Galaxy, render images well, but legacy Android devices—as opposed to the iPhone, which automatically resizes emails to fit all screens—will only show the upper left-hand quadrant so that you not only have to scroll down, you have to side-scroll as well,” Cohen says. “You're spending more time with your emails because you need to if you want to understand them.”

The merits or disadvantages of particular devices aside, one thing is not under debate: Mobile usage is on the rise. Movable Ink found that email opens on smartphones surpassed that of email opens on desktops in all but 13 U.S. states. Just nine months ago, desktops beat smartphones in only 24 states.

“This is the fourth report we've done, and every quarter the map is getting pinker,” Cohen says. “I think that number will continue to shrink until we get to a place, maybe even by the end of the year, when the entire map is pink and we don't even have to produce it anymore.”

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