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How Does Tablet Usage Differ from Smartphone Usage?

How do consumers use smart phones differently than tablets? That's the subject of a new study by Flurry Analytics, and the results can give developers insight into which platform they should be targeting for their apps.

Flurry looked at more than 6 billion application sessions across 500 million smart devices, gleaning information about time of day usage, gender breakdowns, age ranges and more.

One key finding is that smartphone users skew younger than tablet users. The average age of smartphone users was 30, vs. 34 for tablet owners. The most-engaged age segment was 25-34, with 33 percent using smartphones and 26 percent using tablets. Overall, Flurry reports, "Nearly three quarters of smartphone users are 34 years of age or younger, while more than two thirds of tablet users are 25 years or older."

Tablet owners are more affluent in general, too. Flurry quoted another firm which found that 59 percent of U.S. households with a tablet have an income of more than $50,000, compared to 41 percent of households overall with incomes surpassing $50,000.

Interestingly, the Flurry study found that women, who tend to lag behind men when it comes to technology, are about even when it comes to using tablets. Men make up 51 percent of tablet usage, almost equal to women's 49 percent. Smartphones are a slightly different matter: Male smartphone usage stands at 56 percent, compared to 44 percent for women. The takeaway for Flurry? "With an even gender split for tablets, this bucks the trend, indicat[ing] that tablets likely have more long-term mass-market appeal."

When it comes to the single largest category for all mobile devices -- games -- the study finds that although it's still the No. 1 use of both, gaming is much bigger on tablets than smartphones. Fully 67 percent of the time spent on tablets is used to play games, a figure that drops to 39 percent for smartphones.

Social networking, on the other hand, is much bigger on smartphones. Twenty-four percent of smartphone time is consumed with Facebook et al., while it's 10 percent of the time spent on tablets. Entertainment, though, captures 9 percent of users' time on tablets, and only 3 percent of the time spent on smartphones. With their larger screens, tablets would appear to be a more natural environment for watching movies and television, so this figure makes sense.

The upside to a smartphone's smaller form factor is that it tends to be with users more often, and therefore get used more often. Consumers use smartphone apps on the average of 12.9 times per week, significantly more than the 9.5 times weekly average for tablets. The tablet sessions are normally longer, though, averaging 8.2 minutes per session, vs. 4.1 minutes per session for smartphones.

Flurry concludes that, given these usage statistics, the tablet wars are about to heat up:

"The impact of smart devices on both work and play are profound.  With a bevy of significant companies vying for tablet hegemony, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung, developers and consumers should expect nothing short of tremendous innovation."

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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