Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Love at first swipe: Canadians can't get enough of their tablets

It's only two weeks since Canada Day, so let's celebrate what Canada does best: hockey, maple syrup and...tablets?! Yes indeed, if there were an Olympic event in tablet usage, we would own the podium.

ComScore Inc. released some highlights from its introductory Device Essentials report recently, and there are a few important data trends to which I'd like to underscore.

The report presents data for 13 countries in May. The first highlight is for non-computer device traffic, Canadians used tablets for 35.2 per cent of page views. Brazil was second at 33.4 per cent, but the U.S. and U.K. were at around 22 per cent per cent, which is roughly the average across all countries.

Story continues below advertisement

Why are tablets such a success in Canada? Just speculation on my part, but we tend to have relatively fast and uncongested urban cell networks across all major wireless players. Since tablets require more bandwidth on average than smart phones - one study says only about 800 megabytes each month for even the highest end phone, but about 2 gigabytes each month for a tablet - the faster networks mean a smoother, more enjoyable experience. Using my tablet in New York City or Paris can be a frustrating experience, whereas in urban Canada I've seldom had trouble.

Pricing plans may also be a factor: in many countries the basic plan is 2GB or less (at $12.50 per GB) while the standard Canadian plan is 5GB at $7 per gig.

The iPad is currently dominating the tablet market, both in Canada and elsewhere. This could well change over the next year, but the numbers are even higher than one might think based on other reports or studies. According to comScore, in every market except India (where tablet usage is only 4.5 per cent) the iPad share of the total tablet market is between 95 and 100 per cent.

Interestingly, that same dominance does not exist for Internet mobile phones. Although Australia and Singapore have roughly half the page views from iPhones, in the North American and European countries for in the study the non-iPhone market was about 65 to 75 per cent. Interestingly, and despite a global perception that the iPhone has been a U.S.-led phenomenon, American iPhone page views were at 23.5 per cent, lower than the 34 to 35 per cent in Canada, Germany, Spain and France.

According to comScore, almost 15 per cent per cent of Canadian non-PC mobile device page views were performed on iPod Touches: almost double the amount in any other country is at.

ComScore also published data (U.S. only, and only for Android/iPhone/iPad devices) on whether the devices were accessing the internet over a WiFi connection or cellular network.

Not surprisingly, cell phones connect to the cell phone network more than tablets: 53 per cent of iPhone page views were over the mobile network and 78 per cent of Android smart phones. It is interesting that iPhone is so much lower than Android. I wonder if that is a transitory effect due to networks or data plans or other, or a more permanent effect.

Story continues below advertisement

But what jumps out at me are the tablet numbers: 65 per cent of Android tablet page views were over a WiFi connection, and a whopping 92 per cent of iPad usage was on WiFi. I suspected iPad numbers would be higher: It was just over a year ago that the iPad model was only available in a WiFi version; and although about 30 per cent of all iPads sold are 3G models, many consumers don't get a data plan and bought that model 'just in case'.

But still, only 8 per cent of iPad data is hitting the cellular network. That tells me that tablets are being used an awful more like a PC than a smart phone. It is primarily being used at home and work, not on the road, and connects mainly through WiFi.

The report is fresh, insightful and raises a number of interesting questions about how Canadians use devices. But, as always, a few caveats: it is based on a specific methodology and it compiled by counting page views, which not everybody agrees is the best way to measure usage. Also, there is something slightly odd about the way comScore captures data, as their numbers seem to understate the market share of certain players, specifically Research In Motion. (I have e-mailed comScore with this question, but they had not replied by the time this column was filed.)

Report an error
About the Author
Technology columnist

Duncan Stewart is the Director of Deloitte Canada Research in the areas of Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT). Duncan has two decades of experience in the TMT industry. As an analyst and portfolio manager, he has provided research or made investments in the entire Canadian technology and telecommunications sector. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.