Courtesy of USA Today
Call it mobile-palooza.
Consumers are filling their hands, pockets and purses with smartphones and tablets. One mobile device, it seems, is not enough.
Statistics bear this out. Increasingly, consumers from Silicon Valley to the Midwest, South and Silicon Alley are employing a business phone — increasingly, Android — as well as a fun phone filled with apps, usually iPhone. Add to that the ubiquitous tablet, and you have an armload.
Dual tablet-smartphones use is reflected in soaring sales figures for tablets — they are expected to whiz past PC sales for the first time in 2015, market researcher IDC says — and smartphones. Some 1.75 billion smartphones were sold last year, says researcher Gartner. (PC shipments surpassed 350 million in 2012.)
Today, Gartner predicted tablet shipments will grow 68%, to 202 million units, this year worldwide.
“Consumers are using devices based on what they need and when,” says Bob Tinker, CEO of MobileIron, a mobile management and security company. “It could be a smartphone at a restaurant or a tablet on a train. It all depends on the task and space available. But they have multiple options.”
Many of the new users in the family are kids: 37% of teens have smartphones, compared with 23% in 2011, says Pew Research Center.
What it all means in the real world is that mobile devices seemingly are everywhere. Restaurateur John McDonald watches customers stack their phones and tablets on tables or recharge them at restaurant bar outlets to replenish batteries.
“Before, it was either you used Apple or BlackBerry,” says McDonald, a restaurant owner and entrepreneur in New York who recently added a Samsung smartphone to his handheld stash.
“Smartphones are our new, smaller PCs — and they are everywhere,” says Rich Miner, general partner at Google Ventures, an investor in Divide, an app for the management of multiple smartphones.
Samsung has fragmented the market’s dynamic and become the world’s No. 1 smartphone seller, with sleek design, appealing technology and aggressive marketing.
Consumers juggle between phones to maximize battery use. And the choices of consumers have gravitated from traditional PC operating systems to Apple’s iOS to, now, Android phones. The key is whose software — and apps — win out in the end, says Howard Hartenbaum, a general partner at August Capital.
Yes, some even employ the mullet strategy, named after the awkward haircut made infamous by country singer Billy Ray Cyrus in the 1990s — short in front (business), long in back (party).
One app, Tangoe, lets users create separate work and personal personas on one mobile device, so they don’t have to juggle multiple phones and tablets.
Of course, there are consequences with so many devices in fewer hands, such as competition for Wi-Fi at major events and bloated phone bills.
Some $50 billion is wasted each year in the U.S. on unused voice, texts and data, says market researcher Validas.
That has spawned apps such as Divide and Zact, which help manage the cost of smartphones as they multiply among family members. FreedomPop offers a free service similar to Zact, which is a paid-subscription model.