Are phablets simply a passing phase? The latest statistics suggest that a larger screen doesn't lead to greater use. Photo: AFP/welcomia/shutterstock.com
The study by Flurry Analytics disproves the theory that owners with larger smartphone displays consume more data and use more apps. Flurry studied usage patterns for 1 billion smartphones and tablets from March 1-31, identifying the top 200 unique devices, and charted how different handsets access its networks in order to see which form factors and screen sizes consumers use most, and for what usage categories.
It identified five distinct groups of handsets - those with a 3.5-inch or smaller display (for example, older BlackBerry handsets); those with a 3.5-inch-to-4.9-inch display such as the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy SIII; 5.0-inch-to-6.9-inch phablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note; 7.0-inch-to-8.4-inch smaller tablets (eg, Kindle Fire HD); and finally, full-sized tablets with a screen greater than 8.5 inches, like the iPad and the Google Nexus 10.
Not surprisingly, it found that ‘medium-sized' phones such as the iPhone were the most popular, accounting for 69% of all active handsets and that the much less widespread phablet was responsible for 2% of the market. However, the argument that bigger, higher-definitions screens should lead to greater use doesn't hold true.
Phablets only account for 7% of all data on the Android platform compared with full-sized tablets, which account for 7% of the top 200 devices in use but 15% of all active users and 13% of all app sessions.
Flurry also found that nearly one third (31%) of all time spent playing games over the 30-day period took place on larger devices -- full-size and small tablets and phablets. However, when streaming video and accessing e-books is considered, medium-sized smartphones are by far the most popular devices (accounting for 83% of time spent reading books and 85% of time spent accessing video, compared with 2% for phablets and 4% each for both tablet sizes), leading the company to conclude that the majority of users are watching video or reading books on the go, while commuting, rather than when static at the end of the day, the period during which tablet use generally peaks.
Most importantly, the figures show that unless the popularity of phablets continues to grow over the next 12 months, there is little incentive for developers to support the form factor in terms of optimized apps.
"Phablets appear to make up an insignificant part of the device installed base, and do not show disproportionally high enough app usage to justify support. Tablets, on the other hand show the most over-indexing of usage, especially in games. The success some game developers are having with a tablet-first strategy, like dominant game maker Supercell, may also inspire developers of other types of apps to consider focusing on tablets," concludes Flurry's Mary Ellen Gordon, PhD.