New Delhi: Tablet computers are the fastest-growing category when Indians are researching electronic products on the Internet, according to market researcher Nielson, testifying to their increasing popularity.

Searches for tablets, which include Apple Inc.’s iPad and Indian government-promoted Aakash, grew a massive 160% annually, followed by a 50% expansion for televisions and 40% for mobile phones, said the study commissioned by Google Inc., owner of the world’s largest search engine.

There is a “dynamic shift" in the shopping behaviour of Indians, with most consumers deciding through online research the computer, television or phone they want to buy before actually walking into a store, said the Nielson study, which was released on Tuesday.

The Internet is emerging as the biggest medium of first awareness after television for electronic products for consumers in the metro cities.

This presents an opportunity for brands to build their online assets such as content, applications and videos because those are playing a decisive role in influencing consumer purchases, said Rajan Anandan, vice-president and managing director of sales and operations at Google India.

In the mobile-phone category, Samsung was the highest among the top five most-researched brands, followed by Nokia, iPhone, Sony and HTC. None of the local mobile-phone makers featured in the list despite their popularity, Anandan said.

Among laptops, Dell emerged as the leader, followed by HP, Samsung, Lenovo and Acer.

This is the first time Google has commissioned such a study for electronic products, which is the largest search category after travel, according to the company.

The report also said mobile phones are being increasingly used for online research, with 46% of the respondents also using their mobiles for research while 22% in smaller cities using it solely for research.

The study, conducted in 12 cities in India, including the four metros, interviewed around 3,677 respondents outside 200 stores.