Tablet and Smartphone Apps: One Size Fits All?

In iPhone and iPad Articles

We've been asked a few times if app development is any different between smartphones and tablet computers. This is one of those questions where you're gonna get varying responses depending on who you ask. In our experienced opinion is: yes and no.

Right now, there are a lot more applications that are created with smartphones in mind, but that's rapidly changing as tablets become more popular. As a result, many people are downloading smartphone apps for use on their tablets—and for the most part, they work all right. However, that's not to say they work ideally. While the technology for smartphones and tablets is similar, there are critical differences to keep in mind when developing apps for them. Let's consider some of those differences in detail below:

Screen Resolution. When you take a look at a smartphone and a tablet side-by-side, this difference is obvious at a glance; the screen sizes on tablets are quite a bit bigger than those on smartphones. There are ways to program apps so they recognize the device being used, and they can adjust the size and resolution of the display accordingly—but if this programming isn't used, graphics and text can wind up looking awful when displayed on devices the app wasn't designed for.

Screen Size. This isn't necessarily the same as screen resolution, as listed above. Tablet computers simply have more screen space for you to use, as compared to smartphones. This allows for more freedom—and the ability to add more elements—when you compose individual screens for your app.

Taking Up Space. Tablets often have a lot more data storage space than smartphones. As a result, you're free to add more features to tablet apps than you would be with those for smartphones, without having to worry about taking up too much space.

Shared Devices. On the whole, smartphones tend to be personal devices, and are generally used by only one person, whereas tablets are often shared between multiple users. This should be kept in mind when developing apps for tablets, such as providing features for heightened data security between different users.

Wi-Fi. Connectivity on many tablet computers is limited to Wi-Fi only. As a result, text message or voice features that would work fine on smartphones are often pointless in tablet apps.

Where Are the Apps Used? Tablet computers tend to be “stay put” devices; that is to say, their owners are apt to use them more often in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, or somewhere stationary. Smartphones, on the other hand, are “on-the-go” devices, often used in noisy and distracting places while the user is in motion. Developing apps for these devices should keep this difference in mind, as well.

Hands-On. Finally, smartphones are designed to be used easily with one hand; many users navigate through apps and compose messages with a single finger. Tablets, on the other hand (no pun intended), tend to be two-handed devices. The layout of your app, depending on the device, should accommodate this.

Much of the information for this article came from the following sources:

Human Habits


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