Lumped under the collective heading of 'mobile', a lot of marketers think that smartphones and tablets are the same thing when it comes to mobile marketing.

The truth is, people use tablets in a completely different way than they do their smartphones, and your marketing should reflect that.

Here are five reasons why tablets are different than smartphones, and why they should be treated as such by marketers.

1. Location, location, location

Perhaps the biggest difference between tablets and smartphones when it comes to marketing is that people use them in different places. For the most part tablets are kept at home, or brought out only on long trips.

Smartphones, on the other hand, are taken everywhere and used constantly. Another important point is that tablets don’t make phone calls.

That fact makes people think about the two platforms differently. A phone is considered a necessity, while a tablet is much more a luxury or productivity device like a computer.

2. Lean in versus lean back

Source: AppleIn many ways, smartphone users are more immersed in the use of the device than people using a tablet. Most people use tablets as content consumption devices rather than as the personal communication hub that is the smartphone.

When you craft your marketing plan, therefore, the type of marketing you do to each platform will be different because of the way people see and use the device.

For example, the marketing you do towards tablet users will be much more closely related to the marketing you do towards desktop users than it will be towards smartphone users.

3. Smartphones are personal, tablets may not be

When you target a smartphone, you are targeting an individual. Most people have their smartphones, and don’t share them with anyone else. The same can’t be said about tablets, which are sometimes shared amongst several people.

This will play a role when you are deciding how to target your marketing material. Targeting an individual is different than targeting a small group of people. It should also be pointed out here that almost everyone uses smartphones in the same way. First and foremost it is a phone, but it also has productivity apps, and glance worthy information.

The same can’t be said about the tablet, which can be used in many different ways. Some people use it as a content consumption device, while others use it as a laptop replacement.

4. Smartphones are taken everywhere

Source: CnetIn many ways, smartphones are easier targets for marketing strategies because they are carried everywhere, have constant Internet connections, and are used as communication devices.

The first thing that stands out here is that phones can receive SMS messages, which is one of the fastest growing marketing areas available to companies.

Tablets are not taken everywhere, are not the same type of communication device, and cannot receive SMS messages.

It is also harder to target individuals on a tablet because of the diverse ways in which they are used.

5. Users expect to be treated differently

The final way tablets and smartphones are different when it comes to marking it something that has been threaded through the last four examples. Smartphone users and tablet users are not the same. More than 60% of the US population has a smartphone.

That number is only expected to grow as feature phones become less and less popular. Tablets are also growing, but not necessarily in the same market, and definitely not as fast.

Users of each platform do different things on them because the screens are different sizes. Watching long video content or buying something online is much more suited towards a tablet than it is a smartphone.

People can spend hours and hours on their tablets. Smartphones are usually glance-and-put-away devices. They're action oriented. You look at the screen, get the thing done you’re doing and move on.

On a tablet you do one thing and move on to the next thing on the tablet.

Two distinct marketing opportunities

The point is, as a marketer you shouldn’t treat tablet and smartphone users as the same thing. Instead you should treat them as two distinct marketing opportunities. By doing that, your marketing will be more successful than if you treat them both the same.

Using the same marketing towards both types of users almost never works because of the way people use their devices. You’ll find that the marketing you do towards tablet users is closely related to the marketing you do towards desktop PC users. The reason is that people use their tablets more like computers than anything else.

Smartphones are quick information devices that aren’t used for productivity or content consumption. Instead they are used for communication and for short easy tasks that are easy to do on small screens.

Finding a way to distinguish between these users will help your marketing plan succeed.

Peter Tanham

Published 6 November, 2013 by Peter Tanham

Peter Tanham is CEO of and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect on LinkedIn, Google Plus, or Twitter.

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Comments (8)

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great stats.. its a great post.. really enjoyed it

almost 5 years ago


April Mcnicholas

As a Professional Market working in and I would say that the four P of Marketing does count a lot and no doubt the 3rd P "Place " has its own If you with tablets and smartphones...USA and China is best place because they have largest consumption on tablets

almost 5 years ago


Mike Smee

Excellent post!

I remember the first time I was forbidden from accessing a YouTube video on my iPad back in 2010 due to mobile content restrictions!...I remember thinking then how absurd that was!. I’m at home using a device I actually purchased as a smaller, lighter, laptop-substitute and my experience is being spoilt due to inappropriate categorisation and lack of understanding about usage!

Fortunately, this kind of thing is getting rarer, but I would even go so far as to say that a tablet is not mobile device at all! At least in the traditional sense of the word “mobile”. In fact 90% of tablets sold are Wi-Fi only!! So not that “mobile” really!

If we think hard about how we personally use tablet devices and are really honest with ourselves, this seems (I believe) like an obvious conclusion to draw!

almost 5 years ago


Best Smartphone Reviews

Nice Post. very thankful

over 4 years ago


John Johnson, Software Developer at Xaavo

Nice Post, No doubt there is quite bit differnce in both phones and tablets not in thier looks but also the way they are used, As a marketing professional in ,I really always look for proper place for my product placement ,that has quite good importance in creaing marketing strategies

over 4 years ago


robert galle, website designer at wodesigns

Nice post share on Smart phones and tablets good point out five difference points but in my view slightly different as a marketing expert in the people like smart phones rather than tablets

over 4 years ago


John Johnson, Software Developer at Xaavo

I have been using smarphone and tablets for more than 3 years, I think the major difference is only the viewing of website like apps run on both, like if you use smartIO App it will look quite small on phone and will look quite comfortable on Tablets like mentioned here:

over 3 years ago


Uttio Dey, Sales Consultant at CTS Restoration

Thaank you so much, I am planning to purchase a smart device, a smartphone or a tablet but was confused. Now my confusion is less than earlier. Thanks again.

almost 3 years ago

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