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Families Trading Up Give Older iPads to Kids, Parents

Marco Prosch | Getty Images

This is one hand-me-down no kid would turn down.

As tablet prices drop and new versions land in stores, families are trading up and passing their castoffs to children and grandparents. The tablet-on-every-lap trend is playing out in millions of U.S. households where, come television's prime time, moms and dads dump the TV and retreat to their own devices, while teenagers text and sneak in game apps during homework breaks.

The trend is proving to be a boon for device makers eager to flood the market with new versions even if the old ones work well for most users. Apple will supply the fans of the iPad — by far the most popular tablet brand — one more reason to ditch their year-old iPad 2 when it introduces the next iPad, expected Wednesday.

"Tablets can take on any task for anyone in the household," says Michael Allenson, an analyst at Maritz Research. "We see a lot of parents buying second or third tablets because they want to have one for their own and stop kids from tugging theirs."

More than half of tablet users — 55% — queried last year said they will buy or are considering buying an additional device for family members, according to a survey by market research firm IHS iSuppli.

A March survey by online retailer PriceGrabber.com says 42% of iPad owners plan to buy the next iPad as soon as it's released.

Chuck Hollis, an executive at data storage tech company EMC and an iPad fan, is still undecided about buying the new one but concedes he will likely give in to temptation.

Two years ago, Hollis blogged about his family members waiting for their turn for the original iPad. His family now owns five, including one he gave to his 70-year-old mother. Until the iPad, she had been reluctant to use a computer.

"My mom lives by herself, and it gives her access to people outside of her vicinity. When we are talking about a news item during dinner, we've all read it. Everyone's got an opinion."

Of course, a typical American family also owns multiple laptops and desktop computers. But the tablet's design, portability and functionality seem to more fiercely breed the need for individual ownership, says Gary Small, a professor at UCLA, who has written about technology's effects on family communications.

"I heard myself not long ago asking my son to get off the (video) game and come down and watch TV with me," he says. "The family time is dissipating. There's a loss there."

When his family lost a Wi-Fi connection recently, "There was panic in the house," he says. "We had a popcorn party and watched a movie together. I miss those days."

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