TSA Tech Survey : The campus goes mobile

As much as KGPians live and flourish by the peace culture, a time honored tradition of taking things slow and easy, they haven’t resisted being swept away by the swift currents of technology. Just over a decade ago, we queued around public booths to make that weekly long distance call to our homes. We rented movie disks from shops in Tech Market and squabbled for access to the common room’s television to watch it. But we took incremental steps all the time – we got hold of subsidized HCL PCs, fully embraced the power of our LAN infrastructure as soon as it was laid out, welcomed the mobile revolution of the mid 2000s along with the rest of the country and we see this legacy still shining through when we see new KGPians scramble to buy laptops within a semester of arriving here.

Well, this was the story of the last decade. What awaits us post 2012?

Just last year we witnessed the LAN going wireless all across the campus. While the campus warmed up to this interesting development, the world at large has been watching the mobile consumer space heat up over the last couple of years too. Smartphones, tablets and the fancy operating systems that they run have captured the public’s imagination like never before. The cut-throat competition in this space has ensured that prices remain within reach of the average KGPian, and we wondered if this has led to large scale adoption of these tech gadgets on campus.

Is the next decade all about us going mobile?

KGP answered with a resounding yes, going by the results of our survey(See Graph 1). Now might be the best time to clearly state how a ‘smart’device is defined – In the context of KGP, it means that more than half of us walk around with a gadget with a versatile operating system that bundles a PDA, a camera, a GPS, high-speed Wifi networking abilities and in the majority of cases, a relatively large touch screen. Of the 569 respondents of the survey, a whopping 65% of them stated that they owned a smartphone or a tablet. This is truly remarkable, and highlights the unique socio-techno-economic environment on campus as we have better rates of smartphone penetration than the US for our age group (18-24 year olds) which incidentally stands at 62% . Now, the caveat here is that smartphone/tablet owners on campus might have had a greater motivation for responding to our survey than others, but still the situation is very encouraging.

In the context of KGP, it means that more than half of us walk around with a gadget with a versatile operating system that bundles a PDA, a camera, a GPS, high-speed Wifi networking abilities and in the majority of cases, a relatively large touch screen.

It is interesting to note that Android has claimed more than half of the share of all smart devices, while iOS devices account for about 10% and the remainder is taken by the likes of Symbian and WinPhone.

How do we make our platform choices?

Owing to the convenient fact that you typically carry your mobile device with you all the time, one can postulate that these gadgets tend to be seen as an extension of your identity, and increasingly (not to mention irritatingly) by some as an opportunity to express their personal brand of style. So by this hypothesis, its natural to expect people to invest their time, and make a uniquely personal and informed choice. Our data seems to lead credence to this social phenomenon: A majority of our respondents (62%) stated that they do their own thorough research before buying a device. A good chunk of KGPians (21%) paid the most attention to online reviews. 14% relied mainly on what their friends had to say before zeroing in on their device.

A majority of our respondents (62%) stated that they do their own thorough research before buying a device

Graph 2 : Choice of platform VS motive

We asked KGPians what they primarily looked for when buying a device, and examined this in the light of what they finally ended up buying. People conscious about getting a good operating system or the latest hardware specifications more often than not ended up in the Android camp(See Graph2). Those looking for a good bargain understandably bought feature phones (iOS scored a perfect zero in this category). The Apple brand’s inescapable pull was captured in our data when you see that 35% of iOS owners bought a device primarily basing their decision on its brand value.(See Graph 3 below) Though expected, this is remarkable because brand seems to have played a very small factor (<20%) in purchases for other platforms.

 

Graph 3

 

Investigating the choice of a phone by gender, we immediately notice that there’s a section of females who haven’t yet made the jump to Android ( See graph 4) . This writer hazards a guess that this anomaly might be explained by the insufficient (almost non-existent) branding targeted at the fairer sex by the Android camp as compared to traditional feature phone manufacturers. The proportion on the remaining platforms are almost exactly the same for both sexes.

Graph 4 : Platform choices made gender-wise

How contented are we with our gadgets?
Ok, now that folks have got their gadget of choice, how happy are they with it’s performance? Not surprisingly, Apple owners were the most contented of the lot and they had the highest proportion of users voting for the maximum(See Graph 5).

Graph 5 : Happiness indexes across platforms. 5 is happiest.

Building on this point, we asked our respondents which company’s products they would be most excited about buying in the future, now that they already owned a smartphone/tablet. Android users showed a marked preference for Samsung products (65%), followed by Apple and then HTC (around 30%). Apple’s focus on customer satisfaction seems to have paid off too: 88% of iOS users were excited about buying another iOS device in the future. Other platforms users shared almost the same amount of love for both Apple and Samsung products, which was then closely followed by an appetite for Sony and Microsoft devices.

Apple’s focus on customer satisfaction seems to have paid off too: 88% of iOS users were excited about buying another iOS device in the future.

When asked to pick grouses, iOS and Android owners commonly pointed out that their devices ran out of juice much too fast and the other smartphone users picked lack of system upgrades as their pain-point. It seems like KGPians are yet to make peace with the severely limited battery life of a smartphone vis-à-vis a feature phone, and while this in itself might not be a deal breaker, it does come across as a genuine pain-point among the majority of our respondents.

Other smartphone users frowned at the lack of system upgrades over anything else. As Windows Phone7, Symbian, Bada and a host of other small OSes are a part of this category and as each have their own unique ecosystem, it is tough to deconstruct the exact situation on ground zero, and point fingers at who the offender is in this case.

It seems like KGPians are yet to make peace with the severely limited battery life of a smartphone vis-à-vis a feature phone.

What we can expect in KGP in the near future
What we have learned so far is that KGPians have explored different OS ecosystems and have had a good look at the availability of both apps and hardware choices across the spectrum. However, we are still not willing to give up our laptops and go totally mobile. Perhaps it is the non-availability of some basic software on these mobile operating systems that is cause for hesitation.
We started off this analysis by quoting the unusually high penetration of smart devices currently in KGP – 65%. We are elated to end this report with a peek at what the scenario for mobile devices will be in the near future, or to be specific we wanted to shower the spotlight on the 35% who do not own a smart device now. Yes, while half of these folks aren’t totally convinced about the utility of a smartphone and have put off the decision for a year, a good 28% are planning a smartphone/tablet purchase in the next 3-6 months. (See Graph 6)

Graph 6 : Would you buy a smart device in the near future?

28% of non-smartphone users are planning to purchase one in the next 3-6 months.
Taking this to the next step, we queried our respondents as to what platform they would opt for when they got round to jumping on the smartdevice bandwagon, and again Android came out on top. (See graph 7)
If you are an app developer or a budding entrepreneur, here is your verdict: You can’t go wrong developing for Android if your user base is predominantly going to be Indians.

Graph 7: What would your future wishlist be? (Asked to non-smart device owners)

Smart devices and their impact on KGPians’ lives
As we have wifi connectivity all around campus, traditional calls and SMS may well be a thing of the past, resulting in reduced telephone bills and increased quality (even video). Skype and Whatsapp – two applications which provide alternatives to these basic functions of a phone, were already among the most loved apps in our survey. With NFC being in most new smartphones, we might have a shot at replacing our archaic attendance system. NFC is already used to facilitate cashless transactions at IIT Bombay (we covered this in our last issue). Easy geolocation capabilities on these phones can kick-start a range of location based services on campus. Productivity apps were among the most used apps among our respondents – this can result in better note-taking, collaboration and online research right in our classrooms.
On a closing note, we would like to thank the 570 respondents of our survey for patiently, and accurately answering our questions. The insights from the data we have collected will help us tailor better content for you in our TechAve section, and we hope that this analysis here has given you a high level perspective of the gadget scene in our diverse campus. In many ways, KGP is a microcosm of our nation and we are optimistic about getting to see the same kind of smartphone adoption play out across the country.
Stay tuned for a tech revolution in the field of campus journalism as we roll out new ways of sharing relevant information. Beginning with a public calendar integrated with a facebook app and an android app in development staying updated will become easier than ever.

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