Mobile vs. Desktop: A Cross Device User Study

ShareThis released a new study on social behavior across various devices. It provides insights into what people are sharing, on which devices, and to which social networks they are sharing the most.

First, how often do people use desktop devices (e.g., PC, Mac) and mobile devices (e.g., iPhone, iPad, Android-based smartphones or tablets, Windows Phone) during the day?
Even with our society becoming increasingly involved in mobile devices, desktop activities still account for a large portion of online activities throughout the day. For desktop, the usage grows from early morning and stays high from around 9am to 3pm. From 3pm, desktop usage decreases and reaches a low point around 5pm. Presumably this is the time when people are picking up their kids or commuting from work to home, thus the reduced usage on desktop. From 5pm, desktop usage climbs up again until about 8pm. From there the usage decreases again into late night.

At ShareThis, we care a lot about sharing. So let’s talk about how people are sharing and socializing on devices. As noted above, sharing on mobile devices is significantly more frequent than on desktops. Furthermore, as demonstrated below, the iPhone is the most commonly used mobile device for social sharing.

How are people engaged with social channels on iPhone during the day? We see that Facebook is the most dominate social channel, with consistently high usage throughout the day. The other highly represented social channels are Twitter and Pinterest.

It is interesting to compare this with the social channel breakdown of iPad activities. On iPads, the most dominant social channel is Pinterest throughout the day, with Facebook and Twitter following. Pinterest showed the highest usage contribution at night, while Facebook and Twitter showed relatively higher usage contribution in early morning.

So why is Pinterest so highly represented on iPads? Are people viewing different types of content on a larger screen vs. a smaller screen?

Let’s compare what people are sharing via Facebook on iPhone and what they are sharing via Pinterest on iPad. The top shared content categories on Facebook for iPhone users include Family & Parenting, Arts & Entertainment, Health, Technology, and Government. The top shared content categories on Pinterest for iPad users includes Food & Drink, Family & Parenting, Fashion & Beauty, Home & Garden,and Health & Fitness.

What is interesting from the comparison is that the screen size of the device suggests a material impact on the types of content people are likely to consume and share. In the case of iPads, people browse and share a lot of recipes, fashion, and home and garden subject matter, content that includes more graphics, and they use the highly visual Pinterest more! On iPhones, people socialize with their friends, listen to music, and read news updates; there they rely on Facebook more.

The data points above show that people engage with devices in patterns during the day, and that people engage with social channels on devices which better support their activities and content consumption. For marketers, understanding the usage patterns and the connection between devices and social habits is an important part of managing the social communication between their brands and users.