Tech for some of us? Tech usage and age – Dan Ness, November 10, 2016
I’ve been to county fairs where a carnival seer will guess your age and weight. If these diviners were steeped in tech awareness, might they be able to go further and guesstimate if the person uses a video doorbell, 3D printer, or VR headset? I doubt it. Not being psychic, we rely on directly asking people through scientific surveys.
Although age alone doesn’t tell everything about a technology user, analysis of the market by age reveals some striking differences in user’s technology activities, use cases, consumer electronics penetration, connected device usage, and tech purchase intentions.
Market penetration is steeply skewed towards younger adults for most consumer electronics products and services. Analyzing our survey results from TUP 2016, most consumer electronics products index higher among younger than older adults. (An index of 100 means that the product is being used as the same rate as the national average.) Products that index well above 200 (double the national rate) for age 25-39 are many, including OTT TV Boxes ASUS Cube, Google Nexus Player and Google/Android TV. To dispel the notion this age group is sedentary, golf swing analyzers also index high. Furthermore, this group is tech-feathering their nests with video doorbells and smart locks.
Older adults can claim dominance in other consumer electronics products and services. Subscription to Cable TV is stronger among older than younger adults. Many younger adults that watch TV do so using the Internet. Turntables that play vinyl albums (Record Players) index more strongly among older adults. This may in part reflect that older adults may still have vinyl collections to play, while younger adults can either play newer more-expensive albums or track down older LPs. The elder-skewed usage indexes are not as strongly defined as those for youth-skewed, reflecting moderate use of both of these products and services among younger adults.
I know from decades of consumer research that age is only one factor describing technology users. So, I drilled down further into TUP to adjust for educational attainment and employment status. By rank order, the list of age-skewed consumer electronics is nearly identical by age for employed and self-employed adults. This pattern is similar for those who are college educated.
Interestingly, the highest-ranked youth-skewed top devices weren’t personally paid for by younger adults, and instead were bought by their employers. These range from work e-Book Readers and Tablets to All-in-One PCs and yes, Basic cell phones. When younger adults buy tech with their own money, two more highly-favored devices are Game Consoles and Apple MacBooks. Furthermore, whether as a sign of mobility, resourcefulness or freeloading, younger adults index higher for use of a public/shared printer, such as might be in a cybercafé, library, or hotel business center. They also index higher for using three or more printers, regardless of ownership.
There’s an old adage that goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This is likely uttered more often among older than younger adults. The active installed base for older adults skews higher for Home PCs running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. Personal basic feature phones also index higher by older adults.
Considering the near future through buyer sentiment, a similarly distinctive young/old pattern emerges. Gaming Desktops and Gaming Notebooks, those highly-configured clocked-up fun machines, are skewed more steeply than current usage indexes. Smaller and often more-stylish PCs in the Mini Desktop PC form factor rank strongest. One product which might surprise some is the Apple iPod Touch. It’s effectively a Wi-Fi iPhone, capable of running many iOS apps although without cellular coverage. Since younger adults index higher for Work Basic feature phones, perhaps this device is a stepping stone or companion. Other notable youth-skewing planned devices include wearables – Android SmartWatch, Apple Watch, or another Smart Watch.
Purchase intentions skewed toward older adults shows a different picture. From the long list of technology products we surveyed about, none show a measurably strong skew among older adults. The three products even near to being stronger for purchase intentions are the basic cell phone, a printer, and traditional notebook PC. As I mentioned earlier, younger adults have a higher likelihood to be using a work or public/shared printer than older adults, which may contribute to them not being as eager to buy one of their own. As to traditional notebooks, younger adults are also the ones more strongly considering convertible and 2-in-1 designs, while also many consider traditionals. The picture for basic cell phones is scattered due to their continued decline, so any remaining plans are less aligned by age than by socioeconomic situation.
There’s another dimension to age that bears inclusion – experience. Newbie users make different choices than technology veterans. I dove into our technology adoption data in TUP to compare purchase plans by the longevity of the user’s experience. While those who are in the newest-third of users of PCs, Mobile Phones, or Tablets are also generally younger, that’s not entirely the case. First-time use for a Tablet is not limited to young adults; plenty of 30-something and 40-somethings are continuing to join the ranks of active Tablet users. In fact, 59% of adults who have used a Tablet PC for 1 year or less are age 35 and higher.
As we analyzed the purchase plans of the most-seasoned technology users – those who are in the top-third with the most years having used a PC, Mobile Phone, or Tablet, we found that purchase intentions are focused on different products than among newbies. 3D Printers, 2-in-1 Laptops, and Fitness trackers index much higher among the tech-experienced.
Gaming Notebooks, Gaming Desktops, and Mini Desktop PCs rank strongly among tech newbies. Some of this correlates strongly with lower age, as mentioned earlier. However, Tower Desktop PCs also rank strongly. Cloud Home Monitoring/Security solutions stand out as an up-and-coming area which are holding the interest of tech newbies, and less so among the tech-experienced.
Age is a good start in understanding technology users. But, like the skill of a carnival psychic, only goes so far.
About this TUPdate
This TUPdate includes a complimentary brief summary of recent MetaFacts TUP (Technology User Profile) research results. These results are based on the most-recent results of the MetaFacts Technology User Profile 2016 survey, its 34th wave, with 7,334 respondents (US). Trend information is based on prior waves. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.
Current TUP subscribers can tap into any of the following TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis.
The TUP 2016 User Profile Chapter details age, as well as life stage, age cohort, employer size, and other key analysis points. The TUP 2016 Technology Adoption Chapter drills down into experience to profile Early Adopters, the Early and Late Majority, and Laggards.