The Rule of Three—Understanding How Convergent
Devices Can Help Vendors Triumph Over Consumers’
Elaine B. Coleman, Ph.D.
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Published June 2009. © 2009 Interpret, LLC
The Rule of Three—Understanding How Convergent Devices Can Help Vendors
Triumph Over Consumers’ Carrying Limitations
Catalyst: Vendors are marketing an array of mobile devices to consumers but there is a limit to how
many consumers are willing to carry in total.
1) What is the role of the converged device?
2) How many devices will different consumers carry?
3) How should vendors be a part of the consumer mobile ecosystem?
Interpret Insight: Although 34% of consumers prefer to carry a single device, 39% of consumers are
willing to carry two devices while 18% are willing to carry up to three. Devices that do not fit into this
three device ecosystem will be left behind. Vendors must be certain that the breadth of their device’s
functionality factors into the consumer’s rule of three.
Convergent devices allow consumers to transcend the rule of three.
The mobile industry has seen a sharp shift in consumer attitudes with almost one in five consumers
stating they would be willing to carry three portable devices on a regular basis. As cell phones have
become more effective at mastering multi-faceted communication and quick internet browsing,
consumers have found them essential to have at all times. In the same manner, the reduced size and
weight of laptops makes them even more valuable as their processing power and advanced functionality
cannot be accounted for elsewhere.
With the rising popularity of social networking connections and the growing preference for flexibility in
when and how work can be conducted, consumers are more inclined to accept carrying three devices at
once. However, the most optimal balance—particularly for those aged 18-35—is carrying a maximum
two devices at one time. Convergent devices play an integral role in closing this crucial gap in that they
can meld necessary functionality from two or more devices into one portable tool. Previous concerns
were that convergent devices would combine capabilities but do so with less power or reliability than
the singular parts. However, today’s marketplace has offered robust, stylistic and highly functional
convergent devices for ownership: the PSP, the smartphone and eReaders are notable ones.
Consumers will carry up to three devices but the preferences split by a generational gap.
As vendors manage consumers’ interest and potential engagement with portable devices and their
converged manifestations, understanding of the generational split in preferences will allow for more
strategic marketing initiatives. A noticeable divergence exists between consumers between the ages of
35-44—those younger than 34 years of age are most willing to carry two portable devices, while their
counterparts of 45 years of age or older prefer carrying only one device to a much greater extent. More
than likely the popularity of mp3 players, gaming devices, video players, reading tools and messaging
keyboards have made it more acceptable to younger consumers to carry a few devices at once—there
are few devices on the market that can cover all of the aforementioned functionalities at a high quality.
The three device