PC Users’ Smartphone-Envy

Millions of people rely on their smartphone every day for their on the go computing needs. For many, especially in younger demographics smartphones are their sole or main computing device. Whether it is email, social media or gaming consumers across the world have become highly dependent on their phones so much so that the whole tech industry has started to address screen addiction. Considering how much time users spend on these devices, we at Creative Strategies wanted to understand how smartphones fit in people’s workflows and to do so we conducted an online study at the end of November across 1000 US consumers.

The first interesting data point we found is that it 34% of our panel has both a work PC/Mac and a personal one while only 15% relies solely on a work PC for both work and personal computing needs. Forty-three percent of our panel only has a personal PC/Mac. This landscape is fascinating as it points at the opportunity there still is to reach consumers and not just IT departments when it comes to PC sales. While engagement on PCs might have dropped when smartphones first hit the market, it is clear that PCs and Macs still have a place in our homes.

That said, just the fact that 56% of users on our panel do not have a Windows PC with a touchscreen points to an installed base that is ready for an upgrade. This is even more obvious when we see that 61% of the PC users on our panel said their PC has no support for pen.

A Reality Check on How People Work

Before getting into what users want for their PCs, I think it is interesting to look at how they are currently using them as this will provide excellent insight into how to market their next upgrade. Among the people who are currently working 47% said they are usually working from their office desk and another 30% work at their home office desk making mobility not a high priority among our panelists.

Work and life balance is still a struggle for most as we seem to rely on our phones to keep us on top of things without being dragged into work more than necessary. And so 40% of our working panelists check their email, calendar and social media every morning before leaving for work. Twenty-seven percent keep an eye on things on their phone in the evening trying not to open their PC while 11% are always on their phone in the evening but uses their PCs to either binge watch or game. Only 17 percent of our working panelists never start or finish their working day at home which makes me feel somewhat better about my work/life struggle!

When it comes to how people work across devices, there was much less consensus than we had for where work takes place. Our working panelists are quite varied in their habits of working on one machine or multiple ones. Seventeen percent never work on multiple devices, 12% often start working on a work device to end on a personal one at home, 23% only use their work device while 25% pick up a phone or a tablet for a quick edit. Twenty-three percent work seamlessly across devices depending on convenience. What is interesting is that this number only grows to 29% among early tech adopters pointing to the fact that working across devices does not necessarily require tech expertise these days, especially when the multiple device mix includes a phone.

Top Asks from PC users

With the phone being the most used device by many people it is no surprise that there are features that users will want to see on their PCs too. This is not about being able to do the same things they do on their phones, but rather it is about benefitting from some critical enablers of the experience their phones can deliver. It was evident among our panelists that voice calls, messaging, and social media are best dealt on a phone than a PC.

So when we asked consumers which features their smartphone has that they would want to see on their PC the wishlist reflected all the key qualities of a smartphone. First on the list is long battery life (36%) Instant-on (29%) and cellular connectivity (25%).

Interestingly, the second highest feature was face-authentication at 30%. This reflects my previous comment that the PCs owned by our panelists seem to be on the older side and of course, it also demonstrates the lack of FaceID support on the Mac. Considering about 40% of our panelists had the newest Apple and Samsung’s smartphones which support face authentication this ask is not a big surprise and as more phone manufacturers embrace face authentication the need to support it on the PC/Mac will grow. For PC makers this is already an option as Windows supports Windows Hello, but it will be interesting to see what Google and Apple will do going forward.

Pain Points Are Not Always a Driver

In technology, I often find myself pushing service providers or hardware manufacturers to look at solving real-life problems to drive uptake of services or hardware refresh.

It is interesting how, when it comes to connectivity, consumers do not see it as a pain point, but they still want it. We asked our panelists how easy they feel it is to find an internet connection for their PC/Mac/Chromebook when they need it: 31% said it is very easy because they only use a computer at home on WiFi and 17% do the same at their office/campus. Twenty percent said it is not a problem as they mostly work from their desk where their computer is connected. Eighteen percent uses their smartphone as a hotspot and only 5% who are highly mobile users admit that finding connectivity is a constant challenge.

If this were the issue Always-on and Always-connected PCs aimed to solve it seems that the pitch to deliver the kind connectivity that only 6% of our panelists experience with their connected PCs would not lead to much of an uptake. Yet, it is clear to me from the fact that 25% said they would want a cellular connection that when we talk about connectivity, it is not a question of solving a problem but rather delivering a level of convenience we have got accustomed to with our phones.

If I am right, what PC makers, Qualcomm, and carriers will be able to offer in terms of plan activation and compelling data pricing will be the key to the success of the Always-on, Always-connected PC. Offering that convenience for a free trial period will get users to never want to give it up, setting the bar for what the next computing experience should be like.

Published by

Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

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