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7/11/2011
06:07 PM
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iPad Love Grows With Use

Unlike most devices, which tend to satisfy users less over time, the iPad becomes more appealing.

Apple iPad 2 3G Teardown
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Apple iPad 2 3G Teardown
The fact that iPad owners are extremely satisfied with their devices is daunting enough to any tablet makers hoping to compete with Apple for market share. But would-be competitors face a greater challenge than they might realize: The satisfaction of iPad owners appears to increase with usage of the device.

Roger Fidler, who directs the digital publishing program at the University of Missouri's Reynolds Journalism Institute, has been conducting surveys of iPad users since last fall. In a survey he conducted last September, he found that 94% of some 1,600 respondents said they were either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with the iPad.

Fidler conduct a follow-up survey this spring and found that among 561 respondents, almost 70% said they were more satisfied than they were last fall.

In an interview with the University of Missouri news service, Fidler suggested that growing affinity for devices is unusual. "In most cases, satisfaction tends to drop off significantly after about 13 weeks," he said. "That clearly is not the trend with the iPad.”

Fidler's findings confirm that that the iPad excels as a news-reading device, more so than laptops or mobile devices with smaller form factors. Unsurprisingly, respondents indicate that they enjoy using the iPad while relaxing in a chair or on a couch.

In a phone interview, Fidler noted that iPad owners particularly liked the instant on/off capability. "They said the iPad is a different class of computer," he explained. "It's simpler to use and there when you need it."

Fidler also believes that competing tablet makers have missed the mark in terms of screen size. They have failed to recognize the appeal of the 4:3 aspect ratio, which approximates the printed page in its vertical orientation (3:4). Competing tablets, he said, tend to have 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratios, which suit video and gaming more than reading.

"It would appear that the 3-by-4 ratio, which is much closer to proportions of a letter-size page, is much more appealing for people," he said.

Research firm IDC on Friday reported that worldwide media tablet shipments had declined 28% on a sequential basis in the first quarter of 2011, citing seasonal trends and expectations inflated by media hype.

IDC noted that the iPad 2 continues to dominate the tablet market and that "other vendors have had a more difficult time finding market acceptance for their products." Beyond seasonal and macro-economic trends, tablet vendors have had to contend with disinterest in 3G-equipped tablets. Consumers, it seems, aren't eager to take on yet another monthly data bill when they're already paying for mobile phone data plans.

The long-term outlook for tablet sales, however, looks rosy: IDC increased its 2011 shipment forecast total from 50.4 million to 53.5 million.

Fidler said that his next survey, to be made available to respondents in about a week, will seek information from owners of any kind of tablet.

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