With the wrap up of CES 2014 this weekend, consumers have time to reflect on all of the amazing products, gadgets, and potentially life-changing developments that ruled the show floor. But CES is always a forward-thinking event; most products on display are months or years away from hitting the market (if ever). As we ponder when consumers will get the latest prototype gear into their hands, it’s helpful to look back at past innovations and how they’ve fared in the real world.
Gallup last month polled U.S. consumers about the technologies they have in their homes, comparing the responses to those from a similar survey from 2005. The results unsurprisingly show a shift towards both mobile and Internet-connected devices, although legacy tech remains notably implanted in the homes of millions of Americans.
Perhaps the most interesting statistic from the survey is that, in a world of digital downloads, high definition televisions, and 4K hardware, almost three out of five Americans still have a VCR in their homes. The number did indeed drop 30 percent compared to 2005, but it provides a remarkable contrast to this year’s big 4K push at CES.
Just think about trying to hook your grandparents’ VCR up to their 4K television during Christmas 2015.
Poor methodology of the survey’s question may mean that the responses are overstated, however. As found in the actual poll (PDF), the question posed by interviewers was “For each of the following, please say whether it is something you, personally, have, or do not have.” Therefore, actual use of a VCR, which is how many news outlets are characterizing the results, may be much lower than the reported figures. It’s a safe bet that many homes still have a VCR of some kind gathering dust in the corner of the basement, resulting in a “yes” response from the survey participants, even if they haven’t used it in years.
With that in mind, other notable responses included a 3 percent decline for DVD or Blu-ray ownership (from 83 to 80 percent), likely a casualty of digital downloads, a huge 34 percent jump in laptop ownership (30 to 64 percent), and an 8 percent drop in desktop ownership (65 to 57 percent).
In the mobile space, 62 percent of respondents reported owning a smartphone (the question wasn’t asked in 2005, so there’s no comparative data), while basic feature phone ownership plummeted 33 percent, from 75 to 45 percent. Portable music players like iPods also jumped 26 percent (19 to 45 percent), although the 8-year period between surveys likely missed the iPod’s heyday, meaning that a much higher response could be expected from a survey conducted in 2007 or 2008, before the multifunction iPhone ate into iPod sales.
Finally, pay TV services like cable and satellite seem to have held their ground against the recent “cut the cord” initiatives. Cable TV use remained steady at 68 percent between 2005 and 2013, while Satellite users jumped 4 percent.
In the end, the results point to the reality of mainstream technology adoption. New products don’t invade and take over the entire consumer experience, even those that are wildly popular like smartphones. These astounding new devices and services are introduced into homes that feature a variety of technologies from a range of eras. The old is eventually replaced with the new, of course, but the staying power of key technologies, such as VCRs and feature phones, mean that the “next big things” introduced at each year’s CES will be forced to live among their predecessors for years to come. Just think about trying to hook your grandparents’ VCR up to their 4K television during Christmas 2015.
Those interested in the full survey, as well as some charts breaking responses down by age, can check it out over at Gallup.