On Phablets, Apple Plays Follow the Leaders

Carl Weinschenk
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In 2010, tablets were considered a niche category. Apple came along and introduced the iPad and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the four years since then, mobile communications has grown at a rapid and accelerating rate. Video is a big part of that growth. The desire of people to watch content while on the go, even those who don’t own tablets, has led to ever larger smartphones. This has given rise to the phone/tablet, or phablet, category.

An interesting question is whether Apple’s introduction this week of a phablet will have the same impact on the category and the vendor that the iPad had. The answer almost certainly is that the impact won’t be as great.


Mashable reports that the iPhone 6 Plus shares the same internal specs as the also new iPhone 6, but offers a 5.5-inch screen with a high resolution of 1920x1080, leading to a pixel-density of 401 pixels per inch (ppi).

One reason that the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus is transformative is simply that in this case Apple is following, not leading. A tablet category existed prior to the iPad, but the introduction of that device elevated the tablet from a supporting to a starring role. In this case, comparable products are already on the market, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, OnePlus One and LG G3.

Flurry, no doubt timing the release of the data with the iPhone 6 Plus announcement, compared phablet use between February, 2013, and January of this year. At the earlier date, Flurry reports in a blog on the study, “the phablet was an insignificant player in the mobile ecosystem…” The numbers show that during the bulk of 2013, the phablet category grew significantly. Several metrics demonstrated the growth, including how much the device actually is used once it is in consumers’ hands:

Perhaps the most interesting growth trend and the most exciting shift for developers is in App Sessions, shown below. App sessions are an indicator of actual device usage, and Phablets command a disproportionate share of that app activity. While they account for only 6% of active users, Phablet users account for 11% of all app sessions. This is up from only 3% of sessions in 2013.

IDC also sees great growth for phablets. This year, it sees phablets holding 9.8 percent market share in smart connected devices worldwide, which represents 209.6 percent year-over-year growth. Shipments in 2018 will reach 592.9 million and a market share of 24.4 percent. The five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) will be 60 percent, the firm found.

A new report from ReportsnReports, which defines phablets as having screens that measure diagonally between 5.01-in and 6.9-in., validates the growth trend. It says that phablets’ CAGR will end up being 26.67 percent between last year and 2018. The report covers the Americas, Asia-Pacific and the EMEA regions.

Clearly, phablets are growing quickly and, just as clearly, Apple will be a major driver of the trend. In this case, however, it is a follower and not a leader.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Intenet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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