Smartphones v Tablets: Which is More Popular for Web Browsing

Smartphones v Tablets: Which is More Popular for Web Browsing

Nowadays it’s rare to take a bus or train journey, or visit a library or coffee shop, and not see at least one person online, whether it’s on their phone or a tablet. With the prevalence of Wi-Fi, the growth in social media, and seemingly unstoppable sales figures not to mention column inches for mobile devices… They are now a permanent fixture of modern life. For website designers, ensuring their sites are fully-optimised for mobile web browsing is clearly no less essential than checking comparison sites such as to ensure they’re getting the best deal for hosting.

But of the two options for mobile browsing (at least until Google Glass and SmartWatches hit the shelves), which is the more popular? A report in March this year for the Adobe Digital Index found that it was definitely tablets, at least for sites focused on retail/e-commerce, travel and automotives.

The Facts

The Adobe research indicated that for the first time more website traffic was arriving from tablets than smart phones. 8% of monthly global page views compared to 7% - to be precise. They also found that consumers using tablets were responsible for around 13.5% of online sales, a massive figure considering how relatively new the technology is. With that in mind, can the end of desktop browsing be far away? That’s another story for a few years time I guess. Still, both types of mobile device are stealing considerable ground from desktops, but tablets are the more obvious replacement, which could be the reason they’re taking the larger share.

Not only this, but tablet users tend to visit up to 70% more pages than smartphone users. This could well be because people are more likely to browse on their phones during the day, when they may be snatching a few minutes on the commute or their lunch hour, while at home on the couch they can take their time.

Tablets seem to be much more popular for browsing in the UK than many other countries such as USA, China and Japan, at 12.2%, versus 7.4% for smartphones. And tablet use worldwide has doubled over the last 12 months.

Another interesting factoid comes courtesy of everyone’s favourite online auction site Ebay, which notes that their shoppers using tablets spent an average of £154 in the last 12 months, compared to only £85 for smartphone users. Could one reason for this be that because tablets are (for the moment anyway) more expensive than smartphones, tablet users tend to be from higher earning brackets, and therefore have more disposable income.

Why so popular?

Although the overall retail experience on both types of device is broadly the same, the form of the tablet must be a major factor. More data is visible on the screen, requiring less scrolling and zooming. Tablets are also better for the many sites without a responsive design. Their keyboards are also usually easier to use.

 The future?

As smartphones become larger, and tablets become less expensive, and more sites become fully optimised for mobile browsing, the difference in usage may become much less marked. In the meantime, the lesson for e-commerce sites is clear - make sure you’re mobile-ready.