Immigrants embrace tablets: A question of numbers

ownership graph

Graphic from Rebtel.

Rebtel, an independent mobile VoIP company, recently conducted a study of U.S. immigrant and first-generation consumer mobile use and behavior. Their results, released yesterday, indicate that 13 percent of respondents — representing about 5 million people — already own a tablet device. Meanwhile, Read Write Web, in its take on the results, points out that according to the respected non-profit Pew Internet & American Life Project, 4 percent of Americans own tablets and 5 percent own e-readers. Why the gap in adoption rates between immigrants and citizens, Read Write Web ponders. A good question, but perhaps a misleading one.

First, it’s important to note that Rebtel’s survey included e-readers as tablet devices, while the Pew study treated them as separate gadgets. That alone closes the perceived gap quite a bit. Second, Rebtel is a for-profit company that provides international phone-over-Internet services that aim to eliminate the inconveniences of calling cards, international numbers, and so forth. They conducted their study using people who are Rebtel customers living in the United States. It is unclear how their survey measured immigration or citizenship status, but they did divide respondents according to country of origin.

The Pew study surveyed adults living in the United States and conducted its telephone interviews in both English and Spanish; it is possible then that English was not the first language of some of the adults surveyed. The Pew survey does not break down its results by immigration or citizenship status. It does note ethnicity as white, black or Hispanic — though it seems to me those options don’t cover all the possibilities. Both studies were conducted in the fall of 2010.

“At the moment, ownership of e-book readers and tablet computers is concentrated among college graduates and those with relatively high household incomes. Around one in ten Americans with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more own a tablet PC or e-book reader, while fewer than 5% of households earning less than $50,000 per year contain one of these devices.”
~ Pew Internet & American Life Project study results

I won’t belabor pointing out more differences in the studies. My point is that trying to compare these two studies is an apples-and-oranges situation. Who knows where the populations of these two studies overlapped? How did income affect results of the Rebtel study? I don’t think we can just look at these two studies and make generalizations from them. On the other hand, a study meant to compare the differences in tablet and e-reader use adoption rates between recent immigrants and citizens with families long-established in the U.S. and the factors related to adoption of that technology … now that could be very interesting.

Do immigrants/new citizens break the income “rule” noted by the Pew study? Perhaps they feel they can get more communication use out of them, a la Rebtel, so it’s a worthwhile investment. Perhaps to them it’s a symbol of being American. Maybe their life experiences pre-dispose them to be early adopters of new technology.

Who knows. But it sure would be interesting to find out.

purchase graphic

Graphic from Rebtel


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