The iPad’s Role in the Future of Marketing Research (Part 2)

By December 16, 2010Mobile, Surveys

The Pro’s & Con’s of using the iPad as a Field Research Device

Travis Santa (@TravisSanta1) & Aaron Burch (@theburchyburch)

There has been a lot of hype about the iPad and how it can be used by market researchers.  We have laid out some positive and negative aspects of the tablet that you should know about before using it in your next field research project.


  1. “Cool Factor”

The iPad is a sleek looking product that people want to play with—even if they have to take a survey to do so. The device’s “Cool Factor” helps breaks the Mall-Intercept Interview Stereotype. It’s much easier to approach a potential survey taker with an iPad than with traditional paper and pencil survey, which people tend to associate with a test.

  1. High Quality Graphics

Apple products have always been known for having great graphics and this holds true with the iPad. The device has a 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED display with 1024-by-768-pixel resolution. Researchers can include high quality images and streaming videos into the survey to make the experience more enjoyable for the survey taker.

  1. Portability

Ditch the clipboard, paper and pencil. The iPad is light enough to carry around and can be used in any location that supports Wi-Fi or 3G internet access (if using a 3G enabled iPad).

  1. Real Time Data Collection & Reporting

The days of manually recording responses are over. As a mobile computing device, the iPad supports online surveys. One of the major advantages of an online survey is the ability to track data in multiple locations in real time. Researchers, for example, can field a survey in 50 malls across the country and get immediate feedback.

  1. Interactive and Engaging elements

The iPad’s large touch screen display allows respondents to physically touch/type their survey responses or pinch-zoom in or out on specific content. The touch-screen interaction cannot be replicated with a mouse. Given appropriate survey software, the iPad can even allow for audio input and output of verbatim responses eliminating the need for typing—participants can voice their answers and the iPad can record and playback their responses.

  1. Shorter Interview Length

Interview length is shortened dramatically when compared to traditional paper & pencil surveys–responses are automatically recorded on the device and no longer have to be written down.

  1. Longer Battery Life than most Laptops

Apple claims the iPad battery lasts for up to 10 hours while surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video or listening to music, and up to 9 hours while surfing the web using 3G data network.   In our in-field experience, average laptop battery length is usually much less than this (about 3 ½ hours)




Perhaps the most unappealing aspect of the iPad for market researchers is the lack of Flash. Most surveys contain some level of flash to make questions more appealing to consumers.

  1. Wireless Connection Interruption

Losing a wireless signal may result in a survey restart. This can be a big problem if you are in an area with a weak signal, or moving from one wireless connection to another. A workaround for this is using survey software that allows for data to be stored offline and uploaded online at a later time.

  1. Overheating

The iPad has drawn some negative press about issues with overheating. The most common causes of overheating cited have been prolonged use and direct sunlight. These two factors need to be taken into consideration when conducting field research with the iPad.

  1. Typing may be difficult for some

Though the Virtual Keyboard is large and may be easy to type on for those who are technically savvy—the average person may find typing with the iPad tedious and time consuming. Another option is to use an accessory keypad.

  1. More difficult for older generation to operate the iPad

Poor eye sight and fine motor skills will affect your ability to take a survey using the iPad. As a researcher, the inability to get a large response from older people may skew your results.

  1. Theft

Not only is the iPad expensive, it is small—making it very easy for someone to snatch out of the hands of an interviewer. One research company reported an occasion when a shopper very willingly accepted the iPad from the interviewer, and then ran directly out of the mall.

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