It is no secret that screen sizes have been rapidly increasing over the past four years; we have gotten to a point where many users have begun wondering when or if their rise will ever stop. If you love large screened phones, formally known as “phablets“, then a recent study released by mobile analytics firm Flurry is sure to delight. If you lament the rise of the phablet its findings may disappoint; phablet adoption is gaining momentum, we may see even more of them in the future.
Over the past year Flurry has been busy collecting data from 1.6 billion devices that it tracks every month. After narrowing their data to the top 875 devices accounting for 87% of active users in March 2015, they have found that the proportion of active phablets has more than tripled since January 2014. According to the study medium-sized phones (3.5 to 4.9 inches) have fallen from 68% of active devices to 59%, whereas phablets (5 to 6.9 inches) have risen from 6% to 20%; a pretty remarkable jump (see image below).
If we turn our attention to every form factor we find that small phones, medium phones, and full-sized tablets have all lost market share within the past year; small tablets have maintained their market share at 7%. Between 2014 and 2015 phablets are the only form factor that have increased their market share. Considering phablet usage grew from only 3% to 6% between 2013 and 2014 it is quite apparent that in the past year phablets have begun to crowd out other form factors and will inevitably dominate the market before long.
As an Android user Flurry’s definition of a phablet may seem a little too broad, most of us wouldn’t consider a 5 inch phone a phablet. However, we more than likely have gotten so used to large screens we have forgotten about the rest of the market. The fact that many Android users would not consider a 5 to even 5.5 inch phone a phablet supports Flurry’s conclusion that “Phablets are here to stay”.
Another interesting finding within the study is the distribution of form factors among Android and iOS users (see image below). The only phablet running iOS, the iPhone 6+, captured 4% of iPhone users. While this may seem like a small proportion the 5.5 inch iPhone 6+ was released less than 6 months ago; prior to the iPhone 6+ the largest phone running iOS had a display measuring a whopping 4 inches. All things considered that 4% is actually quite significant. If we turn our attention back to Android we find that the number of Android users rocking a phablet grew to 27%, nearly three times larger than the 10% reported a year ago (see image below). This statistic is not very surprising; the first Android phablet, Samsung’s Galaxy Note, was announced in October of 2011 and sold very well for an unorthodox product that created a new category of devices.
The feverish rise of phablets is an interesting story. Say what you will about Samsung but they have played a critical role in forming the large screened smartphone landscape we currently live in. The 3.2 inch HTC G1, the first Android smartphone, was released in October 2008. In 2010 Google released the Nexus One, which had a 3.7 inch display; the average flagship Android device had grown only half an inch in two years. In 2011 Samsung released the 5.3 inch Galaxy Note, an absolute monster compared to the 4.3 inch Galaxy S2 and HTC Sensation. Though many were skeptical about the Galaxy Note it certainly had a major impact. Merely one year later (2012) the average flagship device measured a formidable 4.7 inches. The rest is recent history.