Phablets are taking over: usage rose 148% in 2014

The smartphone/tablet combos are giving people larger screens without the bulkiness of a tablet

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
March 5, 2015
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Some people are still telling me to get a tablet, but I have resisted for a good reason: I know I'll rarely use it. It's too big and I have no use for it. At the same time, my iPhone screen is also pretty small, and that can make the process of reading an article, or viewing a picture, pretty frustrating.

Apparently many others feel this way as well, if the rise of the phablet is any indication. The phablet is, of course, a combo of a phone and a tablet. Bigger than the typical iPhone, but smaller than a typical tablet. And people seem to love them.

From the beginning of 2014 to the beginning of 2015, usage on phablets grew an astounding 148% year-to-year, according to a report out from Flurry on Thursday.

Flurry attributes the growth to the release of two devices: the iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note, and notes that growth on phablet is actually 3.8 times faster than the growth of medium-sized phones, such as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5, over the same time period.

Usage on medium sized phones grew 38% year-to-year, while small tablets grew 14%. Small phones fell 16%, which is not surprising, but it is a little shocking to see usage on large tablets fall 20% year-to-year.

"While this is only one year’s worth of data, the numbers are impressive, leading us to believe that the mobile industry has found a killer form factor, combining the tablet’s bigger screen and ease of navigation with the true mobility of the phone," Flurry wrote.

Phablet usage was so strong in 2014 that it actually managed to buoy the entire industry, leading the overall mobile and app industry to 78% usage growth in that time period. 

In addition, it turns out that phablets are pretty great at driving app usage as well. In three categories, Music, Media & Entertainment, Sports, and News & Magazines, phablet users drove app usage through the roof as compared to all other devices

Sports grew 427% more on phablets than any other device type, while Music, Media and Entertainment grew 255% more. Perhaps having that bigger screen really does help.

So what does all of this mean? And is it really that important? According to Flurry, yes it is.

"While it may seem, given the name, that phablets are simply the middle ground between a smartphone and a tablet, it is a game-changing form factor," Flurry wrote. "It is a killer media-consumption device."

Interestingly, the company thinks that phablets will have the biggest impact on the mobile web, rather than regular sized tablets. 

"As we’ve seen before, the introduction of a form factor changes the media and computing landscape. We saw the laptop change the personal computing landscape," said Flurry. "We saw the tablet change the smartphone and mobile media consumption landscape. This time, it’s happening again with the phablet. It is not just the third-stage media booster rocket, it is the ultimate mobile form factor."

My contract with AT&T is about to run out, and I will have to get a new phone. Maybe the iPhone 6 Plus is the way to go.

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