Designing a better user experience means making sure that users can access information and services across multiple devices, especially mobile devices (phones and tablets).

In building a better experience, there are many questions about mobile device usage and how designers can best meet users’ needs with apps and responsive designs. We’ve conducted a lot of mobile usability studies and in the process have encountered many common questions.

Here are 15 data points to help in answering some common questions about mobile usage and behavior. I’ve included as many sources as possible so you can double check our conclusions.

  1. Around half the US’s and 62% of the UK’s mobile phones are “smartphones.” The percentages are similar across Europe. Fortunately for us researchers, most consumers actually know what a “smartphone” is and whether they own one with around 8% not knowing what “smartphone” means[pdf].

  2. Around 20% of the US population over the age of 18 owns a tablet.   It’s about evenly split between Android and iPad platforms.
  3. Tablets have a similar profile as desktops. While tablets get lumped together with smartphones, some data suggest that they are more similar to desktop computers.  Tablet users are more engaged and view about the same number of pages as desktop users. That’s about four times more than smartphone pageviews.
  4. People use full-size tablets at home and in the evening.  In addition to size, part of the reason for the homebound devices might be that only about half of iPads have cellular data access.  In fact, we found the most concentrated time was used at home, on the couch, or bed between 7 and 10pm[pdf].
  5. Most people have over 20 apps (5 or more paid for).
  6. Most people forget what apps they even downloaded.
  7. Most user prefer shopping using websites to apps. One of the more pressing decisions for mobile teams is whether or not to build an app. Going down the app path means supporting multiple operating systems and platforms (usually having different development teams). In our lab-based studies, we also generally see users spending the most time with the web browser and often not knowing whether they have an app or not.  One of the biggest complaints in the mobile browsing experience is the constant nagging of downloading apps and the non-continuity of links that don’t open the apps.  We generally see users prefer shopping on websites rather than using apps. The percentage changes depending on the industry, app and demographic but the app should offer a compelling experience, rich features or something you can’t get in a browser. Update: Changed a link title that cited a somewhat misleading figure suggesting 87% of consumers preferred apps over websites.
  8. Around half of US smartphone users use their mobile phone to compare prices while in the store. The percentage is a bit lower for Europe.
  9. Most tablet owners still have another desktop or laptop, and despite high usage, it’s still not considered the primary computer.
  10. Most smartphone users haven’t scanned a QR Code. But if they do it’s usually for finding more product information or obtaining discounts.
  11. Portrait vs. Landscape?  For viewing content it’s about evenly split with 54% preferring portrait mode.   However, landscape might be more popular for using certain apps.
  12. Conversion rates from tablets are four times higher than smartphones 5% vs. 1% (about the same as desktop conversion rates).
  13. Consumers who own both a tablet and a smartphone were significantly more likely (63%) to indicate increased overall mobile spending than owners of smartphones only (29%). Larger screen size, full keyboard, and touch screen capabilities are cited as the main reasons for a better shopping experience.
  14. Security is a still a major reason why mobile users don’t make purchases. In our 1:1 lab interviews, we consistently hear fear of stolen data as often as usability and screen size as reasons why users don’t like to use credit card or bank information on mobile phones and tablets.
  15. The more consumers consider and research a purchase, the more they use their smartphones to find product information. For example, 73% of mobile usage in electronics stores was to read product reviews.