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Wireless subs could embrace AT&T’s uninspired tablet

Tablet usage and tablet video users 2014-2016

AT&T is introducing a middling tablet, called Primetime, at a time when the tablet market is faltering. However, AT&T has aligned Primetime with its wireless and video strategies, and with the addition of Time Warner content, it could be the go-to device for the holidays.

Primetime is a middle-of-the-road tablet

Now might seem a strange time for AT&T to launch its new Primetime tablet. The Android-powered 10-inch LTE device does not stand out among its peers. It has an HD display, 2GHz Snapdragon 625 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. However, the price is relatively attractive. AT&T wireless customers can pay $200 (or $10 a month for 20 months) to own it, or $29.99 with a two-year contract.

Primetime is also entering the market at a very difficult time for tablets.

Tablet market moving into decline

Sales of tablets have been falling worldwide. IDC says that year-over-year shipments were down 8.5% between Q1 2016 and Q1 2017.  Meanwhile, the smartphone market continues to grow, with 4.3% increase in shipments over the same period.

How long tablet video viewers watch 2014-2016There are signs also that its usage may also be peaking. Nielsen says that the number of consumers using a tablet for apps and web access climbed steadily between Q1 2014 and Q1 2016. However, for the rest of 2016, it has held steady at 37%. Similarly, the number of people using a tablet to watch video has increased from 11% in Q2 2014 to 21% in Q2 2016. That number fell slightly in Q4 2016.

Tablet a solid video device

Though tablet usage and video adoption may have plateaued, those watching video on the device are watching more. The number of minutes per week tablet owners spent watching video on their device hit an all-time high in Q4 2016, at 100 minutes. Smartphone video viewers watched 88 minutes per week in the same quarter.

AT&T has optimized the device for a better video experience. It has front firing speakers, Dolby audio, and two Bluetooth headphones can connect to it at the same time. The device also allows accelerated access to DirecTV Now and the DirecTV TV Everywhere app from the lock screen.

Primetime tablet a statement device

While Primetime is not going to set the tablet world on fire, it could well be a hit with AT&T wireless customers. AT&T is pushing DirecTV Now hard with customers. For example, if you sign up for an AT&T wireless unlimited plan you can get the 60+ live channels in DirecTV Now for just $10 a month extra. HBO costs just $5 a month more.

There is another hidden benefit to this wireless bundle. Though the wireless plan is “unlimited” AT&T may slow speeds when a user hits 22GB. Hitting that cap is very easy to do when streaming video.^ However, DirecTV Now streaming does not count against the data limit.

Primetime could also become even more attractive to wireless subscribers with the successful conclusion of the deal to buy Time Warner. AT&T seems to believe approval of the purchase will happen before the end of the year. If it is, Primetime could be a great holiday gift for an AT&T wireless subscriber. Imagine Primetime preloaded with HBO Now, HBO GO, and FilmStruck all with unlimited streaming and accelerated access. Primetime could be the perfect device for prime time viewing!

Why it matters

AT&T is introducing a tablet, called Primetime, with middling specs at a time when the tablet market is faltering.

However, Primetime is very much aligned with AT&T’s wireless and video strategies.

It brings benefits to any AT&T wireless user that gets the device.

It could become even more attractive if the Time Warner deal is approved.


^Streaming on T-Mobile’s network at 480p resolution I typically consume nearly a half a gigabyte of data per hour.

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