Smartphones and Tablets: And the Winner Is … (MSFT, SNE, AAPL, GOOG, CMCSA, T, VZ, DIS)

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Trying to figure out the impact of tablets on a how a given person spends time connected to the rest of the world requires a lot of patience and a sharp eye for detail. Most observers have figured out (IDC and Gartner spring to mind) that tablets are cannibalizing sales of PC desktops and laptops, but what about the impact of tablet growth on smartphone usage?

Instead of mobility vs. desk-bound, the smartphone-tablet issue pits mobile vs. mobile. Research firm Flurry has just posted some interesting numbers comparing smartphone usage to tablet usage. In addition to typical demographic data (the average age of smartphone users is 30, while the average for tablet users is 34; men and women use tablets in about equal numbers, but more men use smartphones), the really interesting data comes from a look at time spent on various categories of apps usage.

The most time spent using either device is spent playing games: 67% of time spent on a tablet is spent playing games compared with 39% of smartphone usage time. Smartphone users spend 24% of their time on social networking, while tablet users spend just 10% of their time on social networking. Tablet users spend 9% of their time on entertainment apps, compared with just 3% of smartphone time usage. (Think it has anything to do with screen size?)

Smartphones are used more frequently than tablets, but counting minutes per session, tablet usage is double that of smartphones.

Flurry correctly points out that there is more at stake here than just whether a company might spend development time on a new game or something else. This is just one front on what has been shaping up as a battle for the living room. The players include the big names from the past, such as game console makers Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), and Nintendo versus Internet TV proponents like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), and Samsung Electronics.

The struggle for control of the living room also extends to cable companies like Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA), carriers like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and content producers like Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS).

The tablet has the upper hand in the connected-TV universe, according to Flurry:

[T]ablet usage gives us the best current-day hint of that world to come. Tablet users are older, more female, and we can surmise, more affluent. Additionally, [tablets are used] more during the evenings and for longer sessions. Finally they consume more media and entertainment experiences, with a significant proportion spent on games.

The research suggests that the tablet experience offers the model to follow for players seeking to win control of the living room. That’s probably a very good guess.

The blog post at Flurry is available here.

Paul Ausick