Research:Device types

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

People use various types of computing devices to interact with Wikimedia sites, and it can be useful to divide these devices into standard types in order to compare user behavior across these types.

One potential typology, based on the Microsoft technical writing style guide, is:[1]

  • computers, also known as PCs
    • desktops
    • laptops
  • tablets
  • phones
  • wearables

There are various ways to actually distinguish these device types in practice, such as screen-size thresholds, user-agent matching, or using operating system as a proxy.

Screen size classification[edit]

MediaWiki uses a standard set of CSS screen-width breakpoints to distinguish between devices types. These are based on a great deal of practical experience and, in the absence of something clearly superior, are the preferred method for distinguishing device types.

Instrumentation code can access the screen width using the screen.width web API property.

Screen width (px) Screen size category Corresponding device type
<320 very-small feature phones
320-719 small smartphones
720-999 medium tablets, some netbooks
≥1000 large laptops and desktops

Access method[edit]

One frequent proxy for device type is the interface that a user is using to access Wikimedia content. This is usually called the "access method" and is included in many traffic-related datasets such as page views.

Existing access methods are:

Note that the "desktop" access method does not necessarily mean the device is a computer and "mobile web" does not mean the device is a tablet or smartphone. Almost all tablets and smartphones are redirected to the mobile website based on their user-agent header (Varnish code which implements the redirection), but a user can alter their user-agent header or disable this redirection. Computer users who access a mobile URL are not redirected back to the mobile site and can also manually turn on redirection to the mobile site.


  1. "Computer and device terms", Microsoft Style Guide