Mobile devices increasingly are content consumption devices. “As these device categories evolve and new ones come into being, consumers will continue to expect digital content to be available on all screens, at all times, in all locations,” says Paul Verna, eMarketer senior analyst.

In the United States, over the next two years, eMarketer expects more than 26 million mobile phone users to turn to smartphones, helping put the devices in the hands of more than half of all US mobile users by 2014. That will dramatically expand the “small screen” audience for content consumption to about 133 million people.

By any measure, that is a potent potential audience.

US Smartphone Users and Penetration

But smart phones are not the only fast-growing new screen. Tablet penetration will increase even more quickly in the United States, from a user base of nearly 55 million by the end of 2012 to almost 90 million in the next two years. By 2014, more than one in three U.S. internet users will have a tablet device, eMarketer predicts.

Those new screens will join the 75 percent of U.S. households that own either a desktop or notebook computer, a potential audience of about 100 million homes.

Those statistics indicate why mobile devices increasingly are important. Smart phones already outnumber PC screens, and tablets will, at some point, rival the installed base of PC devices.

US Tablet Users and Penetration

“Without movies, TV shows, games, photos, books, magazines, newspapers, video clips and music, few would care to own a tablet, a touchscreen smartphone, a connected console or an internet-enabled TV,” says Verna. “As consumers continue to gravitate toward digital media consumption, and as content owners and device manufacturers continue to find ways to meet the demand for it, more content will become available in the digital domain.”

The shift of user activities toward content consumption explains, in part, why tablets have become such a “hot” product category. Over time, PCs have become platforms for content consumption, rather than “work” tools.

In a similar way, smart phones have become content consumption platforms as much as communication devices. Tablets, on the other hand, might primarily be called content consumption devices, even though some amount of communications activity (email, messaging) and “work” activity (mostly related to web surfing and mobile apps).

Adult gadget ownership over time 2006-2012

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