Time to differentiate “mobile” from tablets

smartphones are differentNative apps command about 86 percent of U.S. consumers’ mobile time, or about six times more than the mobile web does, according to a mobile analytics report by Flurry.  But what exactly is mobile and do people use mobile devices, tablets and Smartphones, the same way?   From preliminary research the answer to that question would be “no”.Time spent on a mobile device by the average US consumer has risen to 2 hrs and 42 minutes per day from 2 hrs and 38 minutes per day in March of 2013. Apps continued to cement their lead, and commanded 86% of the average US mobile consumer’s time, or 2 hrs and 19 minutes per day. Time spent on the mobile web continued to decline and averaged just 14% of the US mobile consumer’s time, or 22 minutes per day. The data tells a clear story that apps, which were considered a mere fad a few years ago, are completely dominating mobile, and the browser has become a single application swimming in a sea of apps.

smartphone vs tablets

Thomas Husson, VP principal analyst, Forrester Research said “The vast majority of retailers reported conversion rates on smartphones were around 1%, while conversion rates for tablets were 2.4%,” said Husson. “Clearly, smartphones are much lower in terms of conversion rates than tablets. So if you don’t optimize for both the mobile and tablet experience, you will face a challenge.”

“The kind of content and services being accessed by smartphone and tablet users are very different,” Husson said.

While visitors largely use tablets for what he called “lazy internet”—consuming media and content, as well as browsing—they tend to prefer smartphones primarily for communication, content snacking, and using mobile apps.

“Most marketers are still lumping smartphones and tablets into the same mobile bucket,” Husson said. “We believe this is the wrong approach.”  The solution: Companies should work to deliver device-specific experiences to visitors in order to maximize the likelihood that they will purchase.

Smartphones are typically kept with us throughout the day, and display a more even distribution of use through our waking hours. This is especially clear when looking at business hours. People don’t often have their tablets with them at work, and have less time to use them. Smartphones, on the other hand, can be used more continuously through the day. Interestingly, smartphones also display a slight but consistent dip between 5 and 6 o’clock, which we attribute to the commute home. Phones don’t work well when you’re driving in your car or on the subway!

bigger screens

James Kendrick atZD News says “In the early days I used my smartphone for all sorts of things. First there was handling email, then reading ebooks. Using the phone for Facebook and Twitter followed soon after. Then there was watching hours of video on YouTube. The phone was always at hand and kept the laptop in the gear bag. In the last few years my smartphone usage has dropped significantly. Where it was always in use before, now it sits idly on the table waiting, calling out to be picked up”  That seems to be the trend.


There’s a reason that the iPhone 6 is going to have a bigger screen along with top selling models like Samsung’s Galaxy S5, people want bigger screens.  However, what’s really holding “Smartphones” back, in addition to small screen sizes, are slow connection speeds.  Even if we went to 10G the US would still lag in terms of connecting to the mobile web.  We also have to remember that most people connect with tablets at home while they connect with smartphones, for using the web, outside of home.


Finally how many times have you tried to look something up on the web via your tablet only to be frustrated because you’re getting a “mobile site”?  Too many sites are not optimized for the mobile web and when they are you often feel short changed by the experience.  Brands should allow users to view either mobile sites or full sites when accessing their websites.

It’s time to separate the mobile category from tablets and smartphones to benefit both consumers and marketers.


About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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