Advertising InsightsConsumer Behavior Research

Are tablets mobiles… or computers?

By June 8, 2015 No Comments

Although the history of the tablet can be traced back to the eighties, the tablet as we know it was born in 2010 with the launch of the first iPad. At that time Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying “iPad’s not mobile… It’s a computer”. So five years on, are tablets mobiles or computers? Or do we use them in a completely different and new way?

In order to understand if there are any differences in the digital behaviours associated with these devices, RealityMine analysed consumption and contextual data from 2066 American panelists’, captured through our TouchPoints half hourly eDiary. We examined every element of their usage, including where the devices were used, when, who the users were with and the mood they were in at the time.

We also utilised our passive capabilities, capturing data measurements from an app installed on panelists devices. This measures the actions taken on the device; up to 145 different metrics, including URL visits and app usage.

Where are they used?

In our previous blog on Tablet use from June 2014, we found that 85% of tablet use took place in the home. Data from our latest study shows a slight increase in out of home use, but the home use figure still stands at 78%, in comparison to smartphones, which are used both within the home (55%) and also on the go. Only 12% of tablet consumption takes place on the move.

When are they used?

With tablets predominately used in the home, as you might expect, the evening sees a rise in activity, and this actually takes over smartphone and computer usage at 6.30pm, peaking at 9.30pm.

The peak time for smartphone use is considerably earlier at 12 noon while computer dominates the working hours, having its main peaks at 11am and 2:30pm.


Device use of time of day

When observing the differences in tablet use on different weekdays, it can be clearly seen that apps with media content such as music, audio, video or TV are the most popular on Saturdays while gaming apps are the most popular on Sundays. It is also interesting to see that hobby apps are really popular on Thursdays and Sundays – on Thursdays they have a higher consumption rate than social networking apps. Thursday’s hobby peak is not only seen in app usage but also when looking at sites tablet users visited.

What for?

Further investigation into our survey data helps us to paint a picture of how devices are being used at any given time of the day, informing us why tablets and mobiles have such different peak use times.

When we isolate device use by specific app categories being used, we see that the predominant use of tablets is playing games (20%), listening to music (7%) and watching video or TV (7%) – on a broad scale, entertainment dominates tablet usage.

With larger screens, tablets provide a better user experience, which mean that they can also deliver more immersive and interactive advertisements as navigation with a bigger screen is more accurate and display ads don’t necessarily result in messy screen views.

Generally, consumers tend to spend more time using tablets for media and entertainment purposes, while smartphones predominantly being used for communication, social networking and task-oriented activities. Messaging, talking and emailing still cover 45% of mobile usage. Although the screen size of a computer would offer similar user experience to tablet, only 7% of computer usage consists of watching movies, TV or video clips while email, internet and software programs dominate the rest of computer usage.

In what mood?

The role of the tablet in entertaining Americans was further supported when RealityMine analysts examined TouchPoints contextual data. This included looking at the emotions, activities, company and location of American users of mobile technology in a bid to understand how context effects behaviour.

41% of tablet users surveyed reported feeling content, and 18% of Americans feel happy during tablet use. Tablet users also report feeling interested more than twice as often as mobile users!

The most dominant activity when using tablet was relaxing (30%), also drinking (7%) was popular, this further reinforces the case that the device is used during ‘down time’. The same dominant emotions and activities were reported by mobile users, and in addition, talking on the phone or in person and working were popular activities within mobile users.

When it comes to computers, the activity data looks totally different – working (42%) was clearly the main activity within computer users.

Second Screening

Devices don’t exist in isolation of one another, consumer’s commonly second screen – using two devices at the same time. And this clearly influences the way the content is consumed; sometimes enhancing engagement, sometimes causing a distraction. Understanding the total audience across the digital platforms is essential in today’s digital advertising planning in multi-device environment, and this is something we shall explore in more detail in the future.

Are tablets mobiles… or computers?

So, what have we learnt about the differences?

  • Tablets are used more in the home than mobiles
  • Tablets are used in the evening more than mobiles
  • Tablets are used for entertainment more than mobiles
  • While using tablets, consumers feel interested, content and happy

The evidence is now cementing that consumers have found a new purpose for tablets, which differs from the way they use both smartphones and computers. As a result, they have become their own category, which brands are increasingly giving a separate focus to in their advertising budgets.

Since the beginning of 2014, the use of mobile devices has overtaken desktop usage, and both Smartphones  and tablets play an essential, but different role in the life of today’s consumer.


You might also be interested in our blog: Key trends in tablet use June 2014