Categories of Mobile Devices

6 Aug 2012 - 9:08am
4 years ago
4 replies
3008 reads

I am researching interactions on mobile devices and for that purpose I am trying to compile a list of mobile device categories. The classification I have so far consists of 4 main categories:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Desktops

The problem with this categorization is that it is not clear, where to include such devices as the iPod Touch and other iPods, the Kindle, smartphones which are larger than 4 inches, etc. One possible option would be use the classification provided by Mark Weiser with his pads, tabs and boards, yet I feel that this is also somewhat limiting and does not reflect the plethora of mobile devices we have today. 

I was also looking for existing classifications done by other researchers, but unfortunately I was not able to find anything suitable so far. I was hoping that you could suggest something and maybe point me to some relevant articles on the topic.


10 Aug 2012 - 2:16pm

Why are you creating this classification/categories and what is your purpose behind it? Without specific knowledge of the reasoning, I don't see why you would need additiona/different categories to include iPod Touch in the Smartphone category (based on screen size alone) and Kindle in the Tablet category (again based on screen size alone).

While there are multiple screen sizes within the broad spectrum of Smarphones, I havent' found there to be much of an actionable difference when designing for a screen of 3.5" vs 4.5" that requires any real UX considerations. 

Just my .02.

10 Aug 2012 - 4:00pm

I am composing a survey in order to understand what devices people use to access different services and what features of those services are being used on particular devices. For that I need to come up with a list of different device categories. My question is whether the list of categories I have compiled so far is sufficient from an interaction design perspective, or are there any significant categories still missing?

12 Aug 2012 - 8:38pm
Christopher J. ...

Have you created a matix of Devices X Operating Systems and filled it with services/functionality and see where the overlaps are?

I would break down the catregories even further depending on how detailed you want to get (i.e Kindle vs. Kindle Fire, iPod/iTouch/IPad vs.iPhone).  You might also want to consider Car Stereo interfaces which are currently becoming more Tablet like with mobile connections. 

Not sure what screen size has to do with anything, I would go by functionality and connectivity.

.02 cents

~ Shields

13 Aug 2012 - 3:05am

I am not sure it makes sense to separate devices based on operating systems. I think that from an interaction design perspective there is not much difference between an iPhone, an Android, or a Windows Phone. Same goes for the tablets. 

I see the regular Kindle more as a tablet, although not as feature rich as say an iPad, but still. The form factor and basic usage are quite close. 

In regards to iPods (except for the iPod Touch) and other MP3 players - I think it would make sense to put them in a single category, yet I am not exactly sure what that category could be. But again the feature set of such devices is fairly limited compared to smartphones. On the hand the iPod Touch and for example the Zune are not smartphones, but they are very close from an interaction design perspective and the amount of services you can use on them. I guess the only limitation of such devices is not having a cellular data connection and the ability to make phone calls. But if Apple decided to release a 3G capable iPod Touch, then there would be very little difference between it and the iPhone. 

So this is the problem in a nutshell. It is quite difficult to create distinct categories of devices because their features and usage overlap so much. 

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