NPD: AT&T Leads in Tablets, Verizon Wireless Leads in Other Connected Devices


AT&T (NYS: T) Mobility leads the U.S. wireless industry in sales of cellular-capable tablets, according to new research from the NPD Group's Connected Intelligence team. But for most of the other main types of connected devices, Verizon (NYS: VZ) Wireless dominates the market.

The findings are significant considering the growing importance of the connected devices segment of the market. According to research from Recon Analytics, more than half -- 52.7 percent -- of the wireless industry's 4.4 million new wireless connections in the second quarter came from wholesale subscribers and connected devices. Connected devices include gadgets such as tablets, ereaders, netbooks and machine-to-machine connections -- essentially any device that is not a phone. The remaining connections in the second quarter were from contract wireless subscribers (15.8 percent) and prepaid no contract wireless subscribers (32.5 percent).

While AT&T currently leads in the cellular-powered tablet arena, NPD's Brad Akyuz noted that Verizon may soon threaten that lead. Akyuz said Verizon should improve its showing in tablets now that it sells both iPads and iPhones from Apple (NAS: AAPL) . Further, Verizon's new LTE-powered tablets could entice additional customers.

Akyuz said NPD's tablet numbers reflect only those tablet owners who connect to cellular networks with their tablets. According to recent research from ABI, 35.7 percent of the tablets shipped in the first quarter included built-in support for 3G wireless networks.

(Interestingly, Akyuz also said that a commanding majority -- 75 percent -- of connected device users purchase the gadgets and service plans from their existing wireless carrier. Meaning, an AT&T cell phone user who owns a 3G-powered iPad tends to purchase the data service from AT&T rather than Verizon Wireless.)

As for most of the other connected device categories in NPD's study, Verizon is the clear leader. Verizon commands the mobile hotspot segment with 42 percent of the market, followed by AT&T (29 percent) and Sprint Nextel (21 percent). Verizon also leads the market for USB sticks at 44 percent of the market. Verizon just trails AT&T in the embedded notebook market, however, with Verizon claiming 33 percent to AT&T's 34 percent.

NPD's findings are based on its bi-annual "Mobile Broadband Adoption Study," which surveys over 2,400 U.S. consumers. The latest study was fielded in May.

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