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Tablet vs. Smartphone: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 5, 2023
A tablet is a larger touchscreen device primarily for media and productivity, while a smartphone is a smaller handheld device with calling capabilities.

Key Differences

Tablets and smartphones are both portable electronic devices with touchscreen interfaces. While there are similarities, they serve unique purposes and have distinct features. A tablet generally has a larger screen and is optimized for media consumption, digital art, and productivity tasks. On the contrary, the smartphone, with its smaller form factor, is primarily a communication device with phone call and texting capabilities.
The size difference between tablets and smartphones isn't just a matter of preference. The larger screen of a tablet makes it suitable for tasks like drawing, watching movies, or reading e-books. The smartphone's compactness allows it to fit in a pocket, emphasizing portability and immediate accessibility, especially for on-the-go tasks like navigation or quick communication.
In terms of software, both tablets and smartphones often share similar operating systems like iOS or Android. However, certain apps and functionalities might be optimized differently. Tablets might have apps designed to take advantage of the larger display, while smartphones could prioritize communication apps and features.
Lastly, while many modern tablets come with cellular connectivity options, they traditionally relied on Wi-Fi. Smartphones, in their essence, have cellular connectivity, with many newer models supporting 5G speeds. This essential difference reflects the primary communication function of smartphones compared to the more versatile nature of tablets.

Comparison Chart

Primary Function

Media consumption, productivity
Communication (calls, texts)
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Size

Larger, not pocket-sized
Compact, pocket-sized

Operating System

Similar OS but optimized apps for larger display
OS with apps prioritized for communication

Connectivity

Traditionally Wi-Fi, now with cellular options
Primarily cellular, with Wi-Fi options

Hardware Features

May lack some sensors and features
Cameras, sensors, and features optimized for daily use

Tablet and Smartphone Definitions

Tablet

A larger touchscreen device for multimedia tasks.
She bought a tablet to watch movies during her commute.
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Smartphone

Touchscreen interface with various apps.
He downloaded a new game on his smartphone.

Tablet

Often used for digital artwork or design.
Graphic designers prefer tablets with stylus support.

Smartphone

A handheld device with phone capabilities.
She called her mom using her smartphone.

Tablet

Can run applications, similar to smartphones but optimized for a bigger screen.
The drawing app on her tablet provides more tools than the smartphone version.

Smartphone

Essential for on-the-go communication and tasks.
Using his smartphone, he quickly found the restaurant's location.

Tablet

May come with attachable keyboards for productivity.
With a keyboard, his tablet doubles as a laptop for writing.

Smartphone

Compact and designed for portability.
Smartphones fit easily into pockets or small bags.

Tablet

Portable electronic without inherent calling features.
His tablet only works on Wi-Fi, not cellular networks.

Smartphone

Incorporates cameras, sensors, and other advanced tech features.
Her smartphone takes stunning photos with its advanced camera.

Tablet

A thin sheet or leaf, used as a writing surface.

Smartphone

A cellphone having a touchscreen or alphabetic keypad and many of the features of a personal computer, including an operating system that allows the user to download specialized apps.

Tablet

A set of such leaves fastened together, as in a book.

Smartphone

A mobile phone with more advanced features and greater computing capacity than a featurephone.
Mobile phone

Tablet

A slab or plaque, as of stone or ivory, with a surface that is intended for or bears an inscription.

FAQs

Why choose a smartphone over a tablet?

Smartphones are compact, portable, and essential for daily communication.

Can I make calls with a tablet?

Some tablets offer cellular connectivity and apps for calls, but they're not primarily phones.

Can tablets run the same apps as smartphones?

Often yes, but apps might be optimized differently for screen size.

Do tablets have cameras like smartphones?

Most tablets have cameras, but they may not be as advanced as smartphone cameras.

Can I watch movies on a smartphone as I do on a tablet?

Yes, but the smaller screen may not be as immersive as a tablet's.

How do gaming experiences compare on tablets and smartphones?

Tablets offer a larger screen, but many games are optimized for both devices.

Why are cameras on tablets often seen as inferior to smartphones?

Smartphones prioritize camera tech due to frequent daily use, while tablets may not.

Is a tablet suitable for professional tasks?

Yes, especially with accessories like keyboards or styluses.

How do the operating systems of tablets and smartphones differ?

They often share OS, like iOS or Android, but with app optimizations.

Are tablets and smartphones replacing computers?

They supplement computers, but each device has its unique strengths.

Can I write or draw on a smartphone?

Yes, especially on models that support stylus input.

Do I need both a tablet and a smartphone?

It depends on individual needs; some might benefit from both, while others find one sufficient.

Can smartphones and tablets share the same accessories?

Some, like earbuds or chargers, might be shared, but many are device-specific.

Is it easier to type on a tablet than a smartphone?

Generally, the larger screen of tablets can offer a more spacious on-screen keyboard.

What's the primary purpose of a tablet?

Tablets are mainly for media consumption, digital art, and productivity.

Do tablets have better battery life than smartphones?

It varies, but tablets often have larger batteries due to their size.

How has the line between tablets and smartphones blurred?

With larger smartphone screens and cellular tablets, the distinction has become less clear.

Are tablets or smartphones better for reading e-books?

Tablets, with larger screens, often provide a better reading experience.

Which is more durable, a tablet or a smartphone?

It depends on the build, but smartphones might endure more due to frequent handling.

Why are smartphones more popular than tablets?

Their compactness and essential communication features make them a daily necessity.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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