Separate mobile and tablet segmentation finally arrives on Analytics

A Google Analytics feature that's been eagerly anticipated for years appears to have been rolled out without any press at all. The ability to accurately segment mobile (smartphone), tablet and desktop has long been desired, and has at some point recently, finally been delivered to Analytics users.

Up to this point we've had to make do with the creation of custom segments, which perhaps hasn't been entirely truthful (e.g. segmenting on the “mobile” property, screen size, operating system, etc), and undoubtedly extra work that just shouldn't be necessary.

Mobile = mobile & tablet?

The previous behaviour of Analytics was to clump both smartphones and tablets under the mobile property with a yes/no value. The first problem with that is when end users looked at their data, they'd check the mobile overview and assume that this was referring to smartphones - painting a very different picture to what's really happening.

More importantly, it was very unhelpful when correlating with other data like conversion rates. In fact, this would actually defy logic based on Google's reason for banding desktop and tablet together in their other product; AdWords (see enhanced campaigns). Google concluded that tablet behaviour is actually more similar to desktop than it is to smartphone. If that is the case, looking at conversion rates for both smartphone and tablet as one metric (the old “mobile” definition) is effectively looking at skewed data.

Mobile = mobile. Tablet = tablet.

The mobile overview page (Audience > Mobile > Overview) now has a subtle note that explains the recent update:

We’ve add Device Category as the primary dimension in this report, so that you can see data about the different types of devices visitors uses: Mobile, Tablet or Desktop. The previous version of this report only displayed a Yes/No option to indicate if a mobile device was detected.

But wait, it gets better. In advanced segments, we now also have the following to choose from:

  • Mobile Traffic
  • Tablet Traffic
  • Mobile and Tablet Traffic
  • Tablet and Desktop Traffic

So getting really useful data (e.g. mobile vs tablet/desktop conversions) couldn't be any easier. Goodbye hacky custom segments.

What’s next?

It will be interesting to see how Phablets will fit into this landscape, will they ever get their own segment? Should they? Where will wearable tech fit into this picture? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below.