MONTREUX: Mobile apps are being downloaded up to three times more often than their tablet equivalents, reinforcing the key role of smartphones when it comes to engaging consumers, a new study has found.

Kantar Media, the research firm, revealed the findings of its TGI Clickstream study, which covered the 12 months to September 2012, at The Festival of Media Global in Montreux.

The research company, noted that social networking apps were twice as popular among smartphone users than tablet owners, being downloaded by 37% of the former group and 18% of the latter. 

Such a gap was slightly smaller for entertainment apps, standing at 32% and 19% for these cohorts respectively.

News and music apps were downloaded by 27% and 25% of smartphone web users in turn, compared to 11% and 15% of people going online via a tablet.

The biggest difference, however, was seen among health and dietary apps, which were downloaded by 11% of smartphone web users and 3% of the tablet audience.

Shopping apps, an important consideration for retail brands, were also downloaded by 18% of smartphone web users and 10% of the internet population on a tablet.

"There's no denying that more and more people are purchasing tablets for both business and personal use," said Kantar Media's head of TGI International, Geoff Wicken, "but the fact remains that there are a billion smartphones on the planet, and tablet sales are still in their millions."

The smartphone was, he declared, "still considered the all-round communications device that stays with a user for nearly 24 hours a day".

Charlie Crowe, CEO of the Festival of Media, added: "It would of course be foolish to ignore the role tablets have to play in shaping the future of the app market, but brands and media owners shouldn't forget to maintain their investment in mobile if they want to engage with a critical mass of consumers around the world."

Data sourced from Kantar Media, Festival of Global Media; additional content by Warc staff