Smartphones vs. Tablets in the Warehouse & Logistics Environment

I hadn’t intended to post so many notes on the subject, but the more I’ve considered the Peerless Research Group survey underlying Honeywell’s white paper, Are Smartphones and Tablets Suitable for Use in Warehouse and Distribution Center Operations?, the more I’ve found worth noting.

For example, which is more likely to be deployed in warehouse and logistics environments: smartphones or tablets? The Peerless survey revealed that more managers are considering adoption of Android-based tablets and iPads over their smartphone counterparts. Despite that smartphones are pocketable and many users are already quite adept at operating them with just one hand, iPads out pace iPhones by 50 percent to 40 percent in plans for future warehouse-and DC applications, while Android-based tablets outrank its smartphones by 46% to 31%.

Because it’s so rare that I actually use my smartphone for phone calls, I’ve come to think of it more as a small tablet than as a mobile telephone. But, according to Keynote Systems’ 2012 Mobile User Survey, it turns out that there’s not as much overlap as I would have thought in how the typical owner uses a smartphone versus a tablet. Mode of connectivity – WiFi versus mobile broadband – plays a key role in differentiating which application is more likely to be accessed on a smartphone or a tablet. Users are more likely to access a navigation or map application via a smartphone and mobile broadband connection than by a tablet and WiFi connection. But, when the content in question is bandwidth-intensive digital media, such as videos, the preferred device is a tablet. Another factor that differentiated smartphone from tablet use was Web browsing; preference for a tablet climbs with the average time devoted to Web browsing per day.

Now that I’ve considered the additional insights of the Keynote survey, I’m no longer surprised that managers of warehouses and distribution centers, where captive networks reign, are focusing more on tablets than smartphones. Indeed, I now suspect that, if we dig even deeper, we’ll discover that managers of logistics applications that rely more heavily on mobile broadband networks will tend to favor deployment of the smartphones that they already associate with those networks.

Food for thought: Users are far more likely to play games on their tablets than on their smartphones.