Device Size Pies

Posted on November 13, 2012
By Maryam Motamedi

Smartphones have made our lives better with mobile connectivity. Laptops revolutionized access to data in the early 1980s, before we were connected. Laptops, called lunchbox computers or luggables in the early days, revolutionized the workplace as professionals took their work home and on the road. With time, our devices evolved from behemoths to pocket-sized and then grew larger and more sophisticated to require bigger pockets-- only literally of course, since prices keep falling. Mobile devices are often bundled together as the Third Screen. But do smartphones and tablets each deserve a numeric level? As smartphones got smarter, screen sequencing blurred. Sometimes smartphones are referred to as fourth screens, as they are used for video recording and playing capability. Numbers usually convey an order in sophistication, prerequisite, history, and hierarchy. There is a normal graduation of smartphone ownership to tablet ownership. Your jaw may not drop to find out a friend does not have a tablet, but a friend without a smartphone is considered archaic, and behind-the-times. It's also interesting that smartphones have been named after their primary and original function, and tablets have been named after their shape, indicating an inherent or acquired understanding of the main function of the device. This signals a level of evolution in our consumption and understanding of mobile devices. And now, the US market has officially graduated: With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) around the corner, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) estimates that by 2013, the 100M tablets shipped in the US alone will be almost on par with the number of smartphones- 108M. But which do we love more? The desert island test comes to mind: What 5 things would you take with you to a desert island (with electricity and wifi)? Most would not take both a tablet and a smartphone. Smartphones are smaller, fit in our pockets and in the palm of our hands and we usually hold them closer to our bodies. And you may have heard Matt Cohler cite an MRI research study at Disrupt in September. The same regions of the brain light up when someone touches their smartphone as when they touch a family member or a pet. Smartphones are used for local services much more frequently than tablets. This makes sense because most people cannot fit a tablet in their back pockets. And most who own tablets already own a smartphone! A personal account of a friend who was stranded in NYC during Hurricane Sandy, without electricity and wifi, speaks volumes. According to my friend, people were pulling out their battery and wifi-dead smartphones and checking them regularly. This is like the phantom limb experience that amputees and those who've had organs removed experience. Our mobile devices, whether small or large, are near and dear but obviously used differently. It's important to keep the audience, use and context in mind when designing rich media ads. More on that in another post!