Smartphones pack a lot of computing power in a small package and handily outperform those clunky desktop computers of just a few years ago. What's more, their perpetual state of connectivity means that smartphone users are almost never disconnected from the Internet.
But when it comes to computing, does form follow function? Even though smartphones now have roughly the same computing horsepower as full-fledged computers, are they used comparably? The Harris Poll tested more than 2,300 adults (991 of whom own and use a smartphone) on their regular use of computers and smartphones for a series of tasks either device can complete.
What the researchers found was that many of the top uses for smartphones and computers are device-sensitive and take advantage of the best features of each kind of device. The immediate communication that text and instant messages provide, for example, is the most common smartphone use (87 percent) and the least common use for a computer (20 percent).
In contrast, emailing is the top use for computers (90 percent for all email uses combined), largely because the ease of text entry and screen size. Email is still a highly utilized feature on smartphones (72 percent combined), but it is a more passive activity; reading emails on smartphones (67 percent personal, 38 percent work) outpaces actually writing emails (56 percent personal, 32 percent work).
The mobility of smartphones make mapping/navigation among the top uses for these devices (73 percent), but only a midtier use for computers (56 percent), researchers found.
Why is all this important? Understanding what smartphones are used for is an integral part of designing a successful device. For example, the prevalence of text messaging calls for a well-designed keyboard interface. Similarly, smartphone users' reliance on their devices for mapping and navigation services calls for either a well-designed mapping interface or the ability to download one.
These are also data-gobbling activities, which speaks directly to smartphone owners' data plan needs. As reliance on these devices continues to grow, both data plans and entire data networks may be affected.