November 1, 2013

Smartphone audiences vs tablet audiences

Written By Martin Sandhu

It’s easy to simply lump mobile devices and their audiences together, particularly when it comes to mobile app development. Many choose to simply develop a smartphone app and either scale the design for tablets or launch an optimised app later down the line. There are two quite distinctive markets when it comes to mobile though, smartphones and tablets are used very differently and it’s worthwhile considering this in the early planning stages to make sure you’re targeting the right audience.

More often than not smartphones are by their users sides day-long, in fact a recent survey found that 79% of 18 – 44 year olds have their phone with them 22 hours a day. Users generally tend to dip in and out frequently, whilst doing other things. Engagement is continuous but not in-depth and often tasks carried out on smartphones are purely practical or a means to pass the time, in particular during the day.

Peak times occur during the morning and evening commute, but limitations dictated by mobile internet often mean these tasks are interrupted or frustrating, which once again leads to disruptive engagement.

The most popular activities on smartphone are social networking and games, both of which are perfect for passing the time and fragmented use. Although shopping is a popular activity, purchases tend to be of low value or users will simply choose to browse via a smartphone.

Conversely tablets are used more like laptops, and not at arms length 24/7. Whilst they are more convenient than traditional computers, tablets tend to attract attention for more prolonged periods and users usually have a purpose for picking them up, rather than to simply kill some time. The peak usage time for tablets is in the evening and users will generally tend to be sat down, relaxing (as opposed to on the go) when using apps.

This difference is usage leads to differences in activity too; popular apps for tablet users are shopping, news and productivity. Shoppers using a tablet tend to be comfortable with higher value purchases and browsing will often turn into a sale.

Tablets are also used for business purposes by many, as an alternative to a laptop whilst at meetings or out of the office. This increases the popularity of business and productivity apps on tablets.

Tablets have certainly not reached their peak in popularity, yet a third of Brits do own one and use it at least once a month. According to market research firm eMarketer, the increased availability of low-end tablets will mean that by 2017 they will become a mass-market device with more than half the UK population regularly.