Are iPads mobile devices? A few experts weigh in

Are iPads and other tablet computers mobile devices? That was one of the lively discussions today at the MobileNorthwest conference in Seattle. Starbucks director of mobile K.C. MacLaren got things rolling in a morning keynote when he said that tablets are not considered mobile devices in his mind given their large form factor. MacLaren’s remarks led to additional analysis in a later panel. As you’ll see by the remarks below, the five panelists were a bit split on how to classify iPads and other tablets.

Hans Gerwitz, technology director at Frog Design: “The paradigm in which you use a tablet falls closer to how you use a mobile device than it does a PC. The fact that it is inherently mobile. It goes with you. The touch paradigm. You carry a lot of the same mobile conventions with you, and for that reason I think probably closer to mobile than not, but time will tell.”

Geoff Harrison, Vice President of Design Services at Blink Interactive: “As far as UI goes it is going to be much more like a mobile device. But I hesitate to refer to it as a mobile device — probably just because it is big and I am not always going to have it with me. And because of that it doesn’t serve an important purpose, and I think you see more mobile devices as a totem for identity which is going to lead to payments, etc.”

Ted Woodbury, AT&T: “I think looking at the tablet as a shared device is an interesting way to look at that … which definitely puts the phone more in the personal space than it has ever been before. I think tablet as shared (device) is not something that people talk about a lot.”

Anders Rosenquist, director of mobile strategy Zaaz: “Looking around the room, those of you with tablets don’t have a laptop. It is kind of a laptop replacement…. It’s what do you do with the device? People are not going to carry around five devices…. I think the place where it has really put the pressure on is in personal computing…. You are not going to pull out a (tablet) while you are walking down the street.”

Scott Yoneyama, Director of Business Development Teleca USA: “I think it is really up to the individual user, and one more extension beyond that is that it is up to the content and what does the application do. People can use it as a mobile extension. I think it is important to remember that it is a connected device. It is not something that you are always going to (be using) sitting in an office on a Wi-Fi connection…. Whether we choose to classify it as a mobile device or not, it is going to be used on the wireless network at points and you have to design for that.” More on the MobileNorthwest, including a GeekWire interview with Starbucks’ MacLaren, in an upcoming post.

  • http://marketingeek.myopenid.com/ marketingeek

    The ipad is an Apple point of sale terminal that they were able to get us to purchase.

  • Anonymous

     Is your iPad really a mobile device? This company seems to think so… itabgrip.com

    • David Phillips

      I recently purchased the iTabGrip for iPad 1 and it is fantastic, it enables the iPad to be truly mobile. I can now use the iPad while walking around our office and warehouse without having to stop and I no longer need to lock the screen 100′s of times a day which was another factor slowing me down.
      Regarding the main article, I don’t think the form factor is the issue, as the UI’s we need to run our business just won’t work on a screen any smaller. The iPad size is perfect, we just need to enable their use with products like the iTabGrip. 

  • http://twitter.com/gerwitz hans.gerwitz

    I stand by the quote above in asserting tablets will use mobile interaction metaphors (as casual computing devices) but should reiterate that appropriate applications will differ since “phones” are more mobile and hence more appropriate for location-oriented services and as identity totems (e.g. payment and access control).

  • http://twitter.com/greggwheeler Gregg Wheeler
  • Robert W. Greene Jr.

    The answer is yes 100% its a mobile device. The ipad and the iphone are basically one in the same.

  • http://www.omlis.com Omlis

    Fundamentally, tablets are mobile but how mobile they truly are is down to individual choice depending on how the individual uses their personal space and what the device needs to be used for at any particular time. Some individuals will class their tablets as mobile simply because their need dictates UI design and/ or applications that the mobile phone cannot deliver and others will find the size and actual mobility of a tablet a real problem. Scott Yoneyama’s comment of the tablet being used as a mobile extension is one that should be given some consideration.