About Tablets and Smartphones

Lately, it is quite impossible to attend a software conference and not see sessions dedicated to mobile development. This is the hot topic of the day and rightly so, I believe. However, I have the impression that many people think that tablets and smartphones are almost the same thing. This is something that I do not believe is true. Furthermore, I think that because of this belief held by others many tablet applications end up being just a scaled up version of smartphone apps. If a tablet is just a phone with a bigger screen then a tablet app is just a bigger resolution smartphone app, right?

Let’s see why do I think that a tablet it is not just a bigger phone.

Tablets are more powerful than smartphones

This seems to be just a truism. Well, it is and yet most applications that run on tablets and smartphones tend to offer the same set of features and experience.

This is  suboptimal because on a tablet you have more storage space, a more powerful processor, and a bigger screen. And, if the battery doesn’t last for a full day it is not a tragedy. Is not like you end up in the middle of nowhere with a dead phone :)

All these differences should be exploited to create tablet applications that help people to do more than what they are able to do on a smartphone. If you take into account only the bigger screen you have something that enables people to read for hours without getting teary eyed. When more storage space is available , for example, why not let the user decide how many GB your application can use and offer him a true offline experience for things like email, news, RSS feeds, videos, and so on.

Tablets are shared smartphones are personal

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have the feeling that, at least in the case of home users, a tablet is shared. This is not the case with your smartphone. You don’t say “hey mate, here is my phone. Just return it  in four hours.”

And if this is true, why are so many tablets apps built with a single user in mind? How can you have a tablet shared when you have to logout from your social or email accounts in order to let the other user do something?

Again, this feels to me like a big opportunity that it is missed. Why not enable multiusers for them and support on all the apps for which it makes sense? Remember, you do have plenty of storage space…

The Missed Opportunity

I think that this tablet shortsightedness is part of the reason for what we are seeing today: there a far fewer apps for tablets than for phones. And this is true for all the application stores.

I think that developers have a real opportunity here, and that for now it is just being missed. Once we fully understand that tablets and smartphones are different and people want and should use them differently, we will see much more innovation.

3 thoughts on “About Tablets and Smartphones

  1. Very good thoughts, in particular with regards to the missing multi user support. We have a couple of office iPads and it’s extremely annoying to share them across several users, as only 1 user is allowed to sync and install apps on the device.

    As long as Apple keep running the same version of their OS across phones and tablets it’s not likely to change, but at least Android has one branch for smartphones and one for tablets, so maybe there is hope.

  2. Thanks Mihai for the post, it’s a good reminder that devices should not be only defined by hardware & software specs. The Shared vs Personal experience is very different and apps should definately take advantage of this.

    Cheers, Mike G.

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