Aug 16, 2013 · 2 minutes

Tablets and smartphones are often referred to simply as "mobile devices." The name is handy in that it helps distinguish touchscreen-equipped, keyboard-less devices like the iPhone and iPad from laptops and desktop PCs without having to rely on clunky phrases like, you know, "touchscreen-equipped, keyboard-less devices."

But are the two categories really similar enough to share a name?

That's the question Flurry, a mobile ads company said to monitor 397 million iOS devices, sought to answer with its latest report. The company analyzed 44,295 random iPhones and iPads to find the differences between how consumers use those products, from what apps they're running to when they're being used. (Flurry intends to release a similar report for Android-powered devices next week.)

The results: Despite having access to the same App Store and using the same operating system, the iPhone and iPad couldn't be more different.

Flurry's report confirms many suspicions and educated guesses gleaned from anecdotal evidence and personal usage. It shouldn't come as a surprise that iPhones are more likely to be used for navigation or to help their users track their health and fitness or that iPads are more often used for gaming and reading, as shown in the chart below:


And anyone who's rolled been awoken by a late-night email knows how easy it is to use an iPhone in the dead hours of the night. The iPad, on the other hand, stays relatively quiet and falls into disuse as the night goes on, as shown in this chart:


(It also hurts less to drowsily drop an iPhone on your face than it does to do the same with an iPad, so that might have something to do with it.)

Perhaps the most intriguing -- if not most surprising -- aspect of Flurry's report is that tablets are being used similarly to laptops and desktop PCs.

Tablets aren't following their owners into the bedroom or out to "da club" or however it is you're supposed to say that without feeling like an asshole. They are being used to play games, run education-related software, and provide reference materials.

Again, this is unsurprising, given the relationship between the tablet and laptop markets.

Both IDC and NPD's DisplaySearch predict that tablet shipments will outnumber laptop shipments by the end of 2013. (This despite the tablet market's lull as the industry waits for Apple to release new iPad products.) Correlation does not imply causation, but it wouldn't be too much of a leap to guess that consumers are purchasing tablets instead of laptops.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that iPhones and iPads would be used so differently. One is a truly "mobile" device. The other is a laptop replacement that happens to have a touchscreen-equipped, keyboard-less form factor.

[Main image courtesy of Mike Lau, other images courtesy of Flurry]