Figures from the USA show there were 10.4 million tablets using built-in cellular connections last year, which is a 46% increase from 2012.
However, sales of cellular-capable tablets fell from 16% of all tablet sales in 2012 to just 12% in 2013.
This apparent incongruity can be explained by an increase in affordable mobile data plans, according to NPD, which published the Connected Intelligence Mobile Connectivity Report.
It says many consumers had previously bought tablets with 3G or 4G connectivity but had only been using the WiFi connection.
In addition, overall tablet sales were up year-on-year in 2013.
Yet despite this increase in cellular usage, people are still relying on other mobile devices for most of their data needs. The average tablet user consumed just under 1GB of data per month, compared to the average smartphone user who used approaching 2GB of data each month.
Brad Akyuz, director at Connected Intelligence, said “The fourth quarter was a good one for the top four carriers, with the addition of around 1.5 million new tablet subscribers. Even though AT&T and Verizon captured almost 90% of all tablet connections in the market, Sprint had a very good quarter and T-Mobile has a lot of potential with their new data plans. Cellular tablet use is still in its early days and, unlike smartphones, significant tablet cellular use is the exception, rather than the norm. Still, the most important factor is that more people are beginning to try the cellular data option. If they find a compelling use case we will see these use patterns grow aggressively.”