Is the iPad mobile?

Posted on May 20, 2013 by Barry Briggs

This is an interesting article from Boxes & Arrows discussing if the iPad really is a “mobile” device:

The article includes a few observations which echo my own (admittedly anecdotal) experiences of tablet computing:

  • large screens make users feel uncomfortable about looking at stuff in public – people reading their screen over their shoulders, fear of being judged
  • a sizeable % of iPad users had wifi-only devices, so contextual “on the go” features were irrelevant as they couldn’t use the device outside of the home
  • iPads were shared amongst the family, so no one person had them with them at all times or “owned” the device
  • most iPad usage was while sat on the settee watching the TV – their light, quick and easy to use, and have replaced laptops for quick content consumption

I agree with the author’s comment about it “not being about mobile”. If anything, it’s “about touch”, but I’d also add that it’s about screen size, as this is a key differentiator between tablets and smartphones when considering interface and interaction design. Consider the way good iOS apps are universal, but have interfaces optimised for the device, and compare that against the lack of Android apps optimised for tablet when the devices were first launched? The user experience of opening an app on a tablet and seeing a “stretched” version of the smartphone interface is very disappointing.

The numbers quoted around WiFi vs 3G device usage are also interesting, even if they are US-centric and specific to the author’s research group. I think I need to look into GA (or any of the other analytics providers) to see if it can provide that level of granularity. It would certainly help gauge a site’s usage patterns and allow you plan a tablet strategy that fits your own users’ behaviour.

Food for thought when thinking about the desktop > tablet > mobile paradigm, and when thinking about contextual usage patterns.

Definitely one to save to Pocket app for future reference!


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