Tablets and smartphones bear striking similarities in terms of their UI (user interface), but their functionality differs markedly. They appear identical in terms of the touchscreen interface that they offer users, but it’s the UX and behaviour that sets them apart. To the untrained eye, it is easy to assume that a smartphone is simply a smaller version of a tablet, or that a tablet is a larger version of a smartphone. These two systems cater to niche audiences, although there is a degree of overlap involved.
Companies and marketing agencies have poured tremendous effort into understanding which types of users prefer smartphones, and which types of users prefer tablets. There are specific applications for both devices, and this is where the differences become notable. In this post, we will explore 4 key elements of tablets and smartphones. We will highlight the differences in user behaviour and UX to clearly delineate the pros and cons of each.
Mobile functionality versus home-based usage
You would be forgiven for thinking that both smartphones and tablets are designed for anywhere, anytime accessibility. For all intents and purposes, tablets are Wi-Fi enabled, and should theoretically be available for users wherever they go. Salesforce conducted a study and it indicated that just 14% of users considered their tablets to be mobile friendly, while 54% of smartphone users associated mobile with smartphones and not with tablets. In other words, most people use tablets for home-based activities such as reading e-books, and playing online puzzle games, farm games, brain training games etc. Tablets are also the preferred medium for music videos, vines, to do lists, scheduling and other ‘light work’ activities.
The irony of tablet and smartphone usage is that they are both high-tech devices, yet people perceive them differently. Millennials – the trendy young folks – are particularly partial to smartphones. They use these devices for social networking, gaming, communicating, and other utility-style functions. Then, there is the older generation of users. They prefer tablets since they consider tablets to be home-based devices which they can use to relax with. The bigger screens are also geared towards user-friendliness, particularly with buttons, numbers, letters and so forth. Companies that target these demographics will do well to remember that millennials prefer smartphone functionality and older generations prefer tablets.
Timing considerations for smartphones and tablets
Each platform – smartphones and tablets – is associated with times of preferred usage. Tablets are used in afternoons and evenings, and over the weekend. Marketing agencies tend to focus their efforts on customers during these hours. Smartphones are anywhere, anytime tech gadgets. However, it’s probably best to target users from brunch to the early hours since many millennials tend to enjoy a little shuteye in the mornings. Marketing and advertising professionals focus their budgets on targeting tablet users with high-quality ads for afternoon and evening sessions.
Size matters with tablets and smartphones
The golden rule when it comes to screen size is as follows: The bigger the screen size, the better. Of course, smartphones are also moving in this direction as evidenced by the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9, the latest versions of the iPhone, and other Android devices. Gamers prefer bigger screen sizes and longer battery lives. In this realm, tablets win out every time. Additionally, there is less strain on the player’s eyes. Much the same is true if tablets and smartphones are used for reading purposes. Gaming-related activities place a significant strain on battery life. Mobiles are notorious for short battery lives, and games suck up the juice quickly. For this reason, functionality is probably best left to tablets!