Should you build for Tablet?

3 Points to Guide Your Decision

Mixpanel Trends Report

With iOS 7 overtaking iOS 6 as the dominant iOS version in less than three days, the sales frenzy for the new iPhone 5s & 5c, and preparation for the launch of Android KitKat in Q4, developers have their hands full with mobile. The sheer size of the mobile opportunity and how quickly teams need to develop for it leaves many companies questioning if building for tablet is worth diverting their limited development resources.

This report will give companies a guide to help them better make that decision by looking at the key criteria businesses should keep in mind when pondering whether they should (and shouldn't) start building for tablets.

1: Consumers are on mobile, but activity doesn't tell the whole story.

We know people are addicted to their mobile phones, but are they really using their tablet devices? Establishing an understanding of the sheer volume of activity is a good first step to gauge the market opportunity. In August 2013, 53% of the actions Mixpanel analyzed took place on desktop and 47% on mobile devices (see the Desktop vs. Mobile report on Mixpanel Trends here). That 47% on mobile devices includes all mobile devices: mobile phones, tablets, phablets and other non-phone mobile devices (ex. iPod Touch, Kindle, PSP, etc.). So how much of that 47% of activity was on tablets? In total, tablets were responsible for 25% of all mobile activity in August 2013.

Key takeaway: Phones are still the everyday king, but the volume of activity happening on tablets makes these devices too big to be ignored.

But to be fair, simply measuring volume of activity obscures a more important point: what activities are people doing on their tablet devices?

2: Know where the action is

Not surprisingly, people use their mobile phone and tablet very differently. While this is an accepted truism, data is a better base to build your product roadmap on.

Mobile phones are a swiss army knife that people use for anything and everything. They are something that we could not get by without. It is a single device used for everything really. While overall mobile phone activity is significantly higher than that for tablets, it's also much more evenly spread across verticals. Which means, in short, that regardless of the vertical your business is in you are seeing lots of mobile customers.

While tablets have most of the technical capabilities of mobile phones, people are choosing to use them for more specific functions. Tablet activity is concentrated in just a few verticals. In fact, the #1 vertical--games-- accounts for 44% of all activity on tablet devices. The top 5 verticals combined account for 71% of all activity.

Must Build for Tablet

If you are in the gaming, social, education, ecommerce, or media business and you don't have an experience--website or app--designed for tablet devices you're falling behind. Especially games which alone account for 22% of all activity on tablet. People are using their tablets to access your services and if you're forcing them to use a desktop site or a mobile app, odds are you are not keeping them happy.

On the Edge

If you are in the music, health, travel, or enterprise/B2B industries you should consider building a tablet experience. These verticals already account for a decent volume of the activity on tablet devices today and that's likely to increase over time. So depending on the size of their company and their available resources, they should get started on building a tablet experience.

Don't Bother

Companies in the photo & video, dating, or messaging business should not prioritize tablet highly on their product roadmaps.

Key takeaway: Tablets are single-use devices, so consider that if single use is in your business.

Odds are your business falls into one of the above verticals. While the data isn't 100% accurate, it does give a pretty clear view of where the winning and losing opportunities are for tablet development.

3. OS Matters

Activity on Android and iOS tablets are not the same. First, the volume of activity on iOS tablet devices--namely Apple's iPad and iPad mini--is significantly higher than on tablets running the Android OS.

Second, activity on iOS devices is more evenly spread across a number of verticals while one vertical accounts for the majority of activity on Android tablets. It's no surprise that games is number #1 on both. But it is a bit surprising that on Android tablets games account for a whopping 67% of total activity while on iOS devices games only account for 33% of activity.

Key takeaway: Unless you are in the games business, it's probably not yet time to invest in building an Android app for tablet.

The data in this report is based on an aggregated set of the more than 15 billion actions analyzed by Mixpanel each month. In Mixpanel, an action is defined by our customers and can be anything from logging in to an app to making a purchase or finishing a level in a game. The data in this report is segmented by platform--tablet, mobile and desktop--and by Operating System-- Android and iOS.

The report analyzes actions during August 2013. During this period of time 50% of actions analyzed by Mixpanel took place on desktop devices and 50% took place on mobile and tablet devices, as shown by the Desktop vs Mobile report on Mixpanel Trends.