Mobile Devices Spreading Faster Than Past Technologies

A study conducted by the MIT Technology Review found that mobile devices, especially tablets, are being adopted by the population of the United States far faster than past technologies. The comparison included technologies like the telephone, radio, television, computer and electricity. Sources of data included ITU, the New York Times, the Pew Institute, the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Adoption of a technology is measured in terms of traction, maturity, and saturation. Traction is the time it takes from when the device is available for purchase until it reaches 10 percent penetration. Maturity is the period between 10 and 40 percent penetration. Saturation is the period from 40 to 75 percent market penetration. Technologies like electricity, televisions and radios were measured by how many households owned them. Personal technologies, like tablets and smartphones, were measured by how many individual consumers owned them.

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Of the types of technology analyzed, personal tablets had the fastest traction, reaching 10 percent penetration in less than three years. Smartphones came in third for traction, just under eight years; radios took second place with a 10 percent market penetration occurring in about seven years. The technologies that took the longest to achieve traction were the telephone, at 25 years, and electricity, at 30 years.

Smartphones reached maturity more quickly than radios, however. The devices took less than three years to graduate from traction to maturity. Radios took almost double that time. In comparison, the traditional telephone took 39 years. Tablets weren’t considered because they haven’t reached maturity yet.

Neither smartphones nor tablets were considered for saturation. Telephones and electricity still came in last, with longer than 15 years occurring between maturity and saturation. Televisions reached saturation the most quickly, in only five years.

Smartphones have been adopted in developing countries, in comparison to developed countries, far more quickly than other technologies. In 2001, users in developed countries had six times the smartphones owned by those in developing countries. The gap decreased to 50 percent more phones per capita by 2011, according to the International Telecommunications Union. The available data indicates that tablets will be adopted even more quickly, but the results will not be confirmed until tablets achieve market penetration maturity.


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