iPad and other tablets score high for business use

Smartphone survey shows interest in iPad, other tablets

A new survey of U.S. mobile phone users finds smartphones are widely used for personal and business tasks, that users want better access to more of both kinds of data, and the top task for the impending Apple iPad is "conducting work."

A new survey of U.S. smartphone users reveals a majority of them want to use mobile devices, including tablets like the upcoming Apple iPad, for work as well as personal activities. Yet the same users also see only limited productivity gains because they can access so little of the personal and business information they need.

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The online survey polled 2,443 respondents, all adults with mobile phones. Of these, 770 were smartphone users. The study was commissioned by Sybase, which sells several mobile applications for enterprise customers, and conducted by Zogby International, which polled its online panel, a cross section of the U.S. adult population. (You can see the full set of slides here.) 

The sample was asked how they would use a tablet device, which has video, office and e-mail applications, citing the iPad as an example. Not very surprisingly, entertainment-related uses were two of the top three picks. Forty-eight percent chose "watching movies, video, television programs" and 35% said they'd do "gaming and other entertainment."

What was surprising was the No.1 use: 52% said they'd use an iPad-like tablet for "conducting work on the device."

Smartphone users are more likely than standard cell phone users to do work-related activities with their phone. Of standard phone users, 46% say they use their phone for both work and personal tasks. But 79% of smartphone users say they do both tasks.

But regardless of the phone, users say they can access only a small fraction of the personal and business data they're interested in. The question asked was this: "How much of your data would you estimate you currently have access to on your mobile phone."

The question could be interpreted in different ways. For example, are users accessing data that only resides on, or has been transferred to, their mobile phone? Or is the phone a means for accessing data that may reside elsewhere on corporate or Web based servers?

However it was understood, users were clear that they want more access to more data. For "personal data" nearly 60% of the respondents say they access less than 10% of it on the phone. Nearly 70% say they access less than 10% of their "work data." Fewer than 1 in 10 respondents say they can access over 50% of both kinds of information.

The results were even worse when the question focused on enterprise-specific applications such as CRM.

The question was: "How much of your company's applications (such as spreadsheet applications, CRM applications and e-mail) would you estimate you currently have access to on your mobile phone?"

Seventy-two percent of the sample estimated less than 10% of these were accessible. Just over 8% estimated they access more than 51% of these applications.

The survey found very modest productivity gains, at least as self-assessed by the respondents. They were asked "Do you think devices such as the smartphone and the iPad make us more or less productive at work?"

Half of the sample selected "somewhat more productive." One quarter chose from several responses, with 9% saying "no difference" and almost the same percentage saying "somewhat less productive." Only 1 in 4 say these devices have us "much more productive."

Productivity hinges on access, in the view of these users. Asked to estimate the productivity impact of having access to twice the data and applications they can work with today, about two-thirds say it would "make me more productive and better at my job." A fifth, 21%, said improved access "would not have a significant impact either way" to improve or hurt productivity.

Finally, the respondents were asked to name the new or added features they want on their current devices:

* Ability to watch streaming television and movies: 27.2%

* Interconnection with my work systems: 27.1%

* Easily access and read newspaper, magazine and online news content: 24.6%

* Allowing me to purchase basic things like my morning coffee: 11.4%

* Provide easy use for social networking sites that I like: 10.8%

And 26% chose "none of these."

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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