Gartner: Consumers will buy more kinds of devices as market progresses

As opposed to the consolidation of devices, as occurred with the smartphone, the evolving mobile market will soon drive consumers to buy more devices.

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Reversing the trend in personal electronics where consumers have consolidated devices in recent years—such as turning a music player and cellphone into a smartphone—Gartner predicts we're going to be acquiring more kinds of devices again.

The invention of the smartphone allowed consolidation, and since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, we've become accustomed to reading news on phones, along with taking photos, listening to music, making voice calls, and sending texts. The flashlight works well in dark places, too.

For some, the laptop has been consigned to office-only, and the once-coveted tablet downgraded to a children's media consumption device, as larger, more thumb-friendly smartphone screens have entered the market.

Three-to-four devices

However, consumers in mature markets will use three to four devices by 2018, research firm Gartner says.

"The combination of the high level of adoption of technology, the availability of faster networks, and decision making becoming increasingly dependent on real-time information, will undoubtedly lead to more devices per user," Anshul Gupta, a research director at Gartner, said in a press release on the company's website.

In other words, as consumers become even more dependent on a digital existence, and if prices for gadgets remain low, there's no reason to assume consumers won't collect more of the devices—and we'll get them for specific purposes rather than making do with one-size-fits-all smartphones. Just like we did in the old days with boom boxes and cameras, for example.

Combination of devices

A combination of "main" and "niche" devices will be in play, Gartner says.

Smartphones, tablets, and laptops will be among the devices in the main category. That category will also include two-in-one devices like hybrid laptop/tablet devices.

Those hybrids often have a detachable keyboard, or convert from a laptop into a tablet with a swiveling, hinged screen.

Niche devices

Gartner's niche device category includes wearables and connected devices. The researcher describes the wearables as being smart watches, health bands, and smart glasses.

The "new types" of connected devices, also in the niche category, include smart cards, e-readers, and portable cameras, Gartner says.

The numbers

In 2016, "the installed base of devices will total 7.8 billion units, including wearables, phones, tablets, and PCs, and is on pace to reach 8.3 billion units in 2018," Gartner estimates.

Gartner's optimistic numbers tie in with some other estimates too. A British researcher predicts that over half of the UK population will use a tablet in 2015.

In March, eMarketer predicted that it thought 50.3% of Brits will use a tablet at least once a month this year.

"This figure is expected to rise to almost 60%, or 40.2 million tablet users, by 2019," according to the eMarketer article.

Tablet saturation

It's not all rosy for the mobile industry. Growth in actual tablet units, compared to previous years, will drop in the UK as adoption nears saturation, eMarketer thinks.

"Most of those who want a tablet likely already have one, with more sales than ever likely to be replacements," Bill Fisher, an analyst at eMarketer, said in that article.

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