Consumers are showing a strong preference for multi-function electronic products such as smartphones as opposed to their single-function counterparts, according to new survey results from Accenture. While the intention of consumers to buy multi-function devices has “increased dramatically…they are less likely to buy single-function electronic products,” according to Accenture’s “2013 Global Consumer Electronics Products and Services Usage Report.”

Accenture researchers surveyed consumer usage and spending habits for 16 types of consumer electronic (CE) devices, 11 of which were single-function in nature and five that were multi-functional. Consumers’ intention to purchase the former declined or remained steady compared to results from the prior year. The percentage who said they intend to purchase BluRay DVD players fell slightly, for example, from 11% to 10%. Purchase intentions for digital photo cameras, digital video cameras and game consoles remained flat.

The percentage of respondents planning to buy multi-function devices in the next year, in sharp contrast, increased significantly, according to Accenture, rising from 16% one year ago to 36% for desktop and laptop PCs, from 27% to 41% for smartphones, from 20% to 33% for HDTVs, and from 16% to 23% for tablet computers.

“The consumer electronics market is now predominantly a four-horse race among multi-function devices–PCs, smartphones, tablets and HDTVs,” said Mattias Lewren, managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High-Tech industry group. “This development amounts to a call to action for electronics manufacturers. They need to focus squarely on innovative devices with multiple applications, from browsing to media consumption to communications in various settings. Consumers want ‘do-it-all’ capabilities in various sizes and user experiences that fit their different lifestyle needs.”

There were “a few bright spots” among single-function devices, however, Accenture found, though from a “relatively small base.” Intention to purchase basic mobile phones rose from 6% to 10%, while intent to purchase GPS devices, health and fitness devices and eBook readers rose from 9% to 11%,  7% to 9%, and 8% to 9%, respectively. The functionality of these devices is increasingly being incorporated into multi-function CE devices, such as smartphones, however, Accenture notes.

Accenture also found a notable lack of operating system (OS) preference and loyalty among multi-function devices with 66% of respondents saying they would consider purchasing a mobile or computing device with a different OS. Some 24% said they would consider switching to “see what else was on the market”; 23% to “have a better user experience with another operating system”; and 23% to “get access to more innovative services and applications.”

“The lack of consumer commitment to any single platform offers numerous opportunities for electronics manufacturers,” added Lewren. “The platforms that offer a more intuitive user experience, and diverse and sticky applications with compatibility across devices, will be key to creating consumer loyalty in this four-horse race.”

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