Are Tablets "Mobile Devices?" For Media and Advertising, the Answer is Most Often 'No'
For the past few years, a debate has raged throughout tech & media circles: Are tablets “mobile devices”?
This of course depends on whom you ask; you’ll get different answers from a CMO and a CTO. For BIA/Kelsey analysis at least — covering content delivery and advertising media — I’ve taken a stance that tablets shouldn’t be lumped in with “mobile.”
The topic came up at last week’s Mobile Media Summit. Forrester’s Julie Ask pinpointed the differences in usage that compel separating device classes (graphic below). My colleague Rebecca Weingartner even started a LinkedIn thread on the topic.
Given that the debate seems to have gained steam, including a chorus of online voices, it’s a good time to outline my own analyst take on why tablets and smartphones should be analyzed separately. I’ve done just that in mobile analysis and market sizing.
— Though smartphones and tablets can be thought of as mobile in a general sense (similar operating systems and portability), their use cases are decidedly different. Therefore ad campaign strategies should be devised differently for each.
— The modes of connectivity and context are different for each. For example, most tablet use is at home and wifi-only, thus not carrying the “on the go” intent that we usually discuss and analyze around smartphone use.
— Because of of these varying use cases and corresponding nuances in ad strategies, any forecasting of the market opportunity in each area should be separated out.
— That’s for the sake of our clients and conference attendees that specialize in tablets or smartphone content. Or maybe they’re doing both… but different campaign dynamics compel the market sizing to be likewise parsed.
— Google and most other ad networks differentiate ad formats, targeting strategies and reporting between desktop, tablet and smartphone. Google’s Enhanced Campaigns bundles devices in terms of campaign inclusion, but the options available to target, manage and evaluate campaigns are separated out.
These are indicators that smartphones and tablets are different animals. They therefore require different analysis and market sizing from research firms like us (eMarketer conversely includes tablets in mobile ad forecasting). Deloite Agrees.
But denying tablets’ inclusion in mobile is not to say that they should be lumped in with desktop. They should be their own third category, emblematic of unique user behavior and hardware capabilities that drive content delivery and advertising strategies.
Of course from the perspective of hardware enthusiasts, the two device classes (and the expanding device continuum) could be known simply as “mobile”. But from an advertising and media perspective, combining them is exactly that… too simplistic.