Users pay only for necessary services: Quebec iPad users qualitative survey

by Patrick Pierra

October 31 2011

Transcontinental, one of the largest Canadian media and communications group, recently began a qualitative survey of tablet users in Quebec province. Erika Roberts, user experience expert at Transcontinental, presented early results at the first Mobiz conference in Montreal today.

Transcontinental research team met with 30 adults, selected as a representative sample of iPad users in Quebec, between June and October 2011. In semi-directed sessions, these users were asked about why they bought iPads and how they used them. Here are the main takeaways.

Why they bought an iPad:

  1. A majority are not Apple die-hard fans. For most users, their iPad was the first or second Apple device in the house.
  2. Almost all had a clear and definite use in my mind when they bought the device. "It was much of a rationale, clearly thought-of decision, and not an impulsive buy", says Erika Roberts.
  3. Many buyers were retirees, who had been encouraged to buy an iPad by a younger relative "who works in computing".
  4. Now, several users plan to buy a second tablet for other members of their family, and/or other Apple products. "The iPad has apparently converted many users to Apple", says Erika Roberts.

How they use their tablet:

  1. E-mailing on the iPad is a habit for almost all respondents, and many also do social networking. For emailing, though, while most users check their messages on the iPad, some prefer to answer them on a computer. "Many users are still not at ease writing anything on their tablet", says Erika Roberts.
  2. News consumption is high, but magazines don't benefit from it. Most news readers go to newspaper apps and sites. No user mentioned using the iPad to read a magazine he or she subscribed to. A few, though, mentioned having bought individual issues of the popular and picture-led French magazine Paris-Match.
  3. Book reading is picking up fast. "Retired people will spend significant time reading on their iPad as soon as they have located a convenient book source", says Erika Roberts. Most respondents searched first in iBooks, where French-language books are still rare. Those who bought books did so also on Amazon, Chapitre.com, or in Canadian online bookstore Chapters, Archambault or Renaud-Bray.
  4. Recipes have been mentioned by over 80% of users. People bring their iPad into the kitchen. They search for recipes on the web and some also read cooking books on the tablet.
  5. Game usage is split in two categories. On the one hand, console gamers bought an iPad to play on it, and they later bought console-style games. On the other hand, casual gamers play the same board games they played before - like Crosswords and Scrabble. A few users admit having started playing casual games on iPad, but the "Angy Bird" fever apparently wore off after a few months for several users; and they bought only few low-cost game apps, if any.
  6. Productivity does not interest most users. Two respondents mentioned DocumentsToGo, two other mentioned Keynote, but most users didn’t bother. Still, two respondents, working in sales, said they used their tablet to show presentations and pictures to customers. But these users said the documents had already been designed on a computer, and that the iPad was used only to display them.
  7. Services are dominated by bank account management - which is already a popular online activity in Canada. Weather, calculators, maps and GPS, and travel—TripAdvisor and travel guides—were also used.
  8. Video is already part of many users' daily routine. Tou.tv - a free web video and catch-up TV service by state broadcaster Radio-Canada - and ONF (National Film Board), a state-owned documentary service, have been mentioned several times.
  9. TV: many use their iPad while watching the tube; but most of the time, they don't go to the broadcaster’s site or apps, nor chat about what they are watching, nor do any search related to TV programs. Instead they perform other tasks—reading, checking email, Facebooking—that have no relation to what's on television.
  10. Movies were purchased on iTunes mostly by users who also have an Apple computer.
  11. Radio listening on the iPad was also mentioned by three users.

Other key findings:

  1. The device is easy to use, even for older people and consumers who say they didn't like computers. But iTunes and the App store are not so intuitive, especially for people who didn't have an iPhone before.
  2. Heavy iPad users are not always those who bought the high end devices, with a large memory and/or 3G wireless access. "Those who use their iPad as a mobile—rather than just a portable—device are the true heavy users", says Erika Roberts. "They bring their tablet with them, they have developed an intimate relationship with it, and they are now reluctant to lend it to someone else."
  3. Roughly half of users gravitate towards apps, while the other half prefers the web. So, it's not as if each individual split usage 50/50 between both. "Some prefer apps because they see content as more fluid in apps and they prefer the app user experience; those who prefer the web say that apps don't bring additional value."
  4. App users who bought apps typically did so only, or mainly, for the category of products or services they had planned to use their iPad for. "Gamers buy games, readers buy books, news addicts may buy newspaper access, but very few users will spend significant amount on apps outside of their main usage category", says Erika Roberts.
  5. Most users lend their iPad to their children - even as young as one-year old. When they do so, they also tend to download apps for children. But the iPad does not seem to be a hit among teenagers who apparently prefer the computer + smartphone combination. "Among the two quitters who said they wished to sell their iPad because they no longer used it, one mentioned that her teen had also abandoned it."

Transcontinental plans to continue its survey with two additional phases and to issue a report on the first phase at the end of November 2011.

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