Is The iPad The New TV?

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I’ve been noticing a new media habit emerge.

There used to be a time in the evening, when I would close the lid of my MacBook Air, plug in my iPhone for the night and turn to the warm glow of the television to forget about the day I just had and not spend too much time thinking about the day that was ahead of me. It could be an episode of Charlie Rose, but it could also be something a little more mindless like American Pickers. It was my way of unplugging and letting someone else do the heavy lifting for my media diet. Nothing to friend, follow, respond to, create, post, publish, etc… Just sit back and let some content wash over me. It was the perfect way to sail off into the night.

Now, there’s this iPad thing. 

I don’t know about you, but after I close the lid of my MacBook Air and plug the iPhone in for a nightly recharge, I’m more apt to grab my iPad and play with content. It could be watching an episode of television on it, it could be a documentary from iTunes. It could also be reading some content via Flipboard or even watching some videos on YouTube. One of the big complaints about the iPad was that it was a device for media consumption and not one for media creation. While that gap is quickly closing thanks to newer apps and the advancements that the device has had from its first generation to the current fourth generation, it does feel like the iPad is becoming the new TV… just a little bit.

I’m not the only one.

I had a note in my Moleskine notebook to write a blog post about this. The note reads: "is my iPad my new television?" Then, Marketing Charts published a news item today titled, Smartphones Work Round The Clock, Tablets Come Out At Night. It turns out that I am not the only one. That there is an increase in people who are using their iPads at night. Granted, this news item isn’t saying that iPads are replacing television. It could well be that people are using them as a companion device to television. From the news item:

"Tablets are more distinctly a leisure-time platform than are smartphones, based on the apps that consumers use. Tablet users spend more time using media and entertainment apps, including games (67% of time spent), entertainment (9%) and news (2%) categories, comprising almost four-fifths of consumption. Smartphones have a higher claim to communication and task-oriented app usage, including social networking (24%), utilities (17%), health & fitness (3%) and lifestyle (3%), comprising nearly half of all time spent on smartphone apps… Data from both sources suggests that smartphones are used more on the go than are the larger-form tablets, although it’s important to remember that smartphone use is also above-average in the evening hours, suggesting that much of the time spent with smartphones occurs in the home."

Bigger formats win in the home.

All of this makes sense. If you have a smartphone and a tablet, and you’re sitting at home, why wouldn’t you default to the bigger screen? The bigger question (and one that isn’t answered in the two research reports that the Marketing Charts news items sites) is this: how is increased tablet use at night either interacting with TV or replacing it? There’s no doubt that these are early days, but I have this itch that I can’t scratch… and it’s a feeling that these tablet devices are becoming the type of media and entertainment that television is doing everything it can to transform itself into. That’s not a slight against television, but the new reality of a world where the consumer is creating their own uses and habits, as companies and industries struggle to find their way.

Aren’t you curious to see how this all plays out?


  1. This will be interesting, Mitch. Like you, I normally default to my iPad shortly before bed.
    I’m curious to learn more on the avg. tablet user’s time spent in-app vs browser per session.

  2. I actually took a picture of my desk yesterday because I had my MacBook Air, my MacBook, my iPad, and my iPhone all working at once. It’s kind of ridiculous. But, like you, I close everything down at night and open my iPad. I might read a book, play Words with Friends, play on Pinterest, go through Zite, or stream a movie through Apple TV. It’s pretty freaking cool what we can do now!

  3. “.. how is increased tablet use at night either interacting with TV or replacing it?..” Lately I’ve been using both, somewhat in parallel.
    i.e. relaxing for a while observing TV as entertainment content (series mostly for I’ve lost patience with localized news, which are purely political or other promo babble informed). At the same time, I’m browsing digital news on the iPad, checking updates, comments and saving/emailing key ones to read or process later on.

  4. Absolutely true! I hardly watch TV, and looking at time spend, the iPad has taken fully taken over the TV consumption.
    Not only for myself, but my wife too. Two people on the couch, each with an iPad, is as standard as two people on the couch watching TV was 2 years ago.

  5. We certainly think ipad is the new TV! Mitch Joel is right on point with this post and not the only one thinking about it! Living rooms are changing and mobile viewing via iPad is stepping into the forefront.
    Content in the cloud!!

  6. This is something that’s been on my mind for the better part of the last year. Not only are iPads becoming our “TVs,” but there is a shift away from random TV viewing and more towards appointment viewing and, more importantly, subscription/streaming services replacing cable all together.
    I don’t think cable is going the way of the 8 track, but I do think the iPad is a tool that makes audiences far more comfortable with “unplugging” from cable. If you own a connected TV, you can have a number of streaming services like Hulu, Netflix. You can purchase an AppleTV or Roku Box for even more options. Combine that with the iPad, where I recently passed the time our power was out due to Hurricane Sandy with the first season of “The Walking Dead.” For $11 I had 5 hours (the first season is six episodes) of commercial free, crystal clear TV programming, wherever I wanted to watch it.
    It’s going to take a bit for the larger public to catch up, but the model is definitely shifting. I wrote about it here:

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