By Alok Saboo on June 3rd, 2010
Since the launch of the iPad (and even before that) there has been lot of debate on the utility of the iPad as a separate product. Many, including Robert Scoble, have vehemently argued about how the iPad is changing almost all the rules of the game. Some, on the other hand, have argued why the iPad may not be the best device for everyone. Despite this debate, the iPad is selling like hot cakes, which makes me wonder what is the value that people are seeking or getting out of their iPads. To unearth the motivation of users buying the iPad, I decided to take a deeper look into the usage patterns on the iPad.
One approach would be to ask current iPad owners about their usage patterns. However, this approach has problems associated with survey techniques, including sample size and respondent selection, not to mention the challenges of conducting such a survey. To get a broader and a representative picture, I used an alternative approach. I used the Top 200 free and paid iPad apps as listed by Appshopper and compared them with the top 200 free and paid iPhone apps – giving me 400 data points each for both iPad and iPhone. The iPhone apps provide a baseline to analyze iPad usage. This is important as app download does not necessarily indicate app usage (although it is a good proxy). If the app download figures are skewed, they should be skewed in a similar fashion across the two platforms, thus mitigating the discrepancy between app download and app usage. The results are presented below.
iPhone vs. iPad Usage Patterns
Let us starts by looking at the charts for the top 200 apps free and paid apps for both the products.
The difference is stark!!
While Games constitute almost half of iPhone usage, they account for only about a quarter on the iPad. In general, on the iPhone the usage is restricted to a few categories of apps. The top three categories on the iPhone (i.e., Games, Entertainment, and Utilities) account for over 75% of usage. In contrast, on the iPad the top three categories (i.e., Games, Entertainment, and Productivity) account for only 46%. The iPad is clearly being used for a variety of purposes.
While there are important differences, I would like to draw your attention to the difference between the reading habits. Reading constitutes an important element on the iPad. For example, Books, News, and Education apps are far more important in case of iPad, accounting for around 20% usage, whereas they only account for about 3% on the iPhone.
The charts for free and paid apps separately lead to similar conclusion (click on the charts for a larger view).
|iPhone Usage||iPad Usage|
While this analysis was illuminating, I decided to dig deeper. I looked at the descriptions of the top 50 paid and free (i.e., total 100) iPad apps. Using the descriptions provided on the App store, I created a word cloud. Please note that I have removed common English words (e.g., as, in) and other words that you would expect in the App descriptions (e.g., Apple, great) so that the resulting cloud provides an insight into the usage pattern on the iPad.
The above cloud provides a further confirmation. As expected, words such as “game”, “play”, “players”, “control”, “level”, “racing”, etc. highlight the importance of gaming on the iPad. Interestingly, we see lot of words highlighting other uses of the iPad. For example, words such as “read”, “news”, “world”, “reading”, “documents”, “pdf”, “text”, “content”, “page”, “books”, “information”, “save”, “kindle”, etc. highlight the value placed on reading on the iPad. Next, words such as “graphics”, “images”, “videos”, “photos”, “color”, “music”, “watch”, “interactive”, “tv”, etc. indicate the importance of media consumption.
Clearly, there is a lot more going on with the iPad then on the iPhone. Further, as visualized by Apple, it appears that the iPad is more a media consumption device (at least for now). Although it is heartening to identify and document these differences, the results are broadly along expected lines. To a large extent, the differences that we found are a function of the larger screen size. The larger screen lends itself very well to a variety of uses not possible on a smaller (smartphone) screen. It will be interesting to carry out a similar analysis comparing the iPad with a netbook or with another (possibly Android) tablet. I am confident that the difference would be even dramatic. Further, the results are driven by the nature of apps available for the iPad. We can argue that the current crop of apps for the iPad do not leverage the capabilities of the device. But heck, we can do a similar analysis in the future
Would love to hear your thoughts on this?