Your team has developed a great mobile app for smartphones. Are you ready to port it over to tablets? Before you start optimizing your app for a larger screen, make sure you understand the behavior of today’s tablet users because it might not be as clear cut as it once was. Here are four questions to ask yourself before porting mobile apps to tablets.
1. Is This App Entertaining?
Today, there is a clear divide in how people use smartphones vs tablets. Generally, people reach for their iPhone or Android device for utilitarian purposes like messaging or emailing, or looking up things like restaurant reviews or movie times. In fact, that makes up 45% of mobile usage on smartphones. It makes sense. The phone is our map, calculator, watch, communicator, etc on the go, and we’re used to reaching for it to look up information or message someone.
On the tablet, we see a different pattern of behavior with users. Most of our activity on these devices is playing games, listening to music, or watching TV and videos. It is an entertainment device, most in use when we’re relaxing. The larger screen is specifically made for consuming content during our downtime, and much more than our phone, we use it mostly for entertainment apps.
So ask yourself if your app is something users will be entertained by. Games and streaming media apps make perfect sense, but an app that’s more utilitarian won’t get as much use on a tablet as it will on a smartphone.
2. Is This App Mobile?
Users don’t see tablets as a “mobile” device anymore. A 2014 Mobile Behavior Report showed that only 14% of consumers associate the word “mobile” with their tablets and e-readers. People use their tablets at home 78% of the time. It might as well be plugged into the wall at this point.
As the tablet has matured, the niche it occupies is as an at-home device people use to consume content after work or on weekends. It’s closer to laptops than phones in our minds, and have their place usually on a bedroom nightstand or coffee table. And because we don’t really travel with it, apps that people use at home will succeed the most. As the readwrite.com article put it:
“Tablets, on the other hand, are considered more stationary and at-home and we use them with “browsing” state of mind. Usage of the larger device tends to be more passive, because people associate them with watching videos, movies and reading.”
Two words to keep in mind there: browsing and passive. That’s how people use the device, again at home. So if your app specializes in providing information in a mobile capacity, then you should think twice before porting it over. Smartphone should house apps that are truly mobile. Tablets need apps that are for the home.
3. Is Your App for Enterprises (and is it Windows)?
As much as tablet makers want you to believe otherwise, people don’t use tablets to create much content besides video. It’s just a pain to do much more than that on a touch screen, and by the time you hook on a keyboard, you might as well be on a laptop. For the majority of tablet users, it is a consumption device.
But one segment that actually uses tablets for more than watching YouTube are enterprises. A new report by Strategy Analytics says that shipments of tablets, especially larger ones (11 inch display and up), will jump 185% in 2015 due to enterprise users. A lot of that comes in the form of Microsoft’s Surface Pro series, which has been a quiet hit growing from 1.5 million shipped in the first half of 2015, to 2.6 million in the second half. In fact, Windows’ market share grew by nearly 60%.
So clearly, your team has to ask itself whether your mobile app targets enterprise users or not. If so, porting to a tablet is a good choice…but you’ll want to create a Windows version of the app to really reach those power users. At least, until that rumored iPad Pro comes along.
4. Are Tablets Obsolete?
Is developing for tablets even worth the trouble anymore? Tablet sales worldwide are declining, despite the increase in Windows tablets cited earlier. And even when sold, they’re not being used. 1 in 10 tablet owners no longer use their tablets at all. Besides in the workplace, tablet usage is down across the board.
It seems the disparity between expectations and real-word use is a stark one: we just don’t find tablets as useful as we thought we would. With limited time and resources, is it really a good idea to have your team work on a tablet app in a declining market? The answers to the previous three questions should help you determine whether it’s worth developing: if it’s entertaining, for the home, or for enterprise companies, it has a good chance of succeeding on tablets. If not, you might want to funnel your tablet development funds to marketing your smartphone app instead.