Study: PCs Are For Daytime While Tablets Come Alive At Night

mobile-devices-screens-featuredAre mobile devices complementary or do they cannibalize PC usage? There are competing data and answers. It does seem clear that people use different devices in different contexts, but some simply prefer smartphones across the board.

Regardless, people are now using multiple devices throughout the day. Ad network Chitika analyzed traffic patterns in the US and Canada last month to map differences in usage behavior. The data reflected in the charts below are drawn from “tens of millions of mobile- and desktop- based online ad impressions within the Chitika Ad Network.”

What they show are usage peaks and valleys for each category: PCs, tablets and smartphones. The usage patterns are overlapping but distinctive.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 10.26.39 AM

PC-based Web activity builds during the day and peaks during traditional working hours (8am to 5pm). It rapidly starts to decline after traditional work hours and drops to its lowest point during the middle of the night (one would hope).

By contrast, tablet usage peaks during “leisure” hours after work. Tablets do see activity throughout the day, especially during what might be considered “commute” times.

Tablet usage by daypart

Smartphones are more heavily used throughout the day (vs. tablets) and into evening hours. Like tablets, smartphones also see heavy commute-hours usage.

smartphone activity by daypart

These data are consistent with usage findings previously published by others. Chitika observed, “Overall, mobile browsing rates are much more consistent throughout the day as compared browsing from desktops and laptops.”

In the data above, Tablet and PC patterns are the most dramatically different. If one had to generalize, one might say (as others have before) that PCs are for work and tablets are for pleasure or leisure. Smartphones, by contrast, are used thoughout and cut across both “work” and “leisure” activities.

There are potential marketing implications from these data; however, it’s somewhat premature to draw definitive conclusions about usage given that it’s still rapidly evolving.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Mobile Marketing | Statistics: Mobile Marketing | Statistics: Popularity & Usage

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • Erica Forrette

    While the info is fascinating, I think a key piece that is missing in so many of these mobile content consumption analyses, is BUYING behavior. As an online retailer with a heavily mobile visitor base, we see far lower conversion rates on mobile phones than on “PC-based” traffic (and we do offer a mobile-optimized site). In a recent customer survey we learned that the majority of our buyers do not prefer to BUY from their phones, yet 70% of our emails are opened on mobile phones. Is it the smaller screen experience? Lack of trust of a phone to make a purchase? Who knows. Another survey is in the works to find out…

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