Sizing Up Mobile Use By Form Factor

The-New-Ipad-AFocus on medium-sized smartphones and full-sized tablets and forget about “phablets."

That’s the conclusion of a new study by app advertising and analytics firm Flurry, which looked at how a device’s form factor and screen size relates to app usage on its network.
 
The study focused on the top 200 models, as measured by active users in Flurry’s systems, representing more than 80% of all usage. From that group, five basic device categories emerged: small phones, (3.5-inch or smaller screens), medium phones, (3.5 to 4.9-inch) Phablets (5 to 6.9-inch), small tablets (7 to 8.4-inch), full-size tablets (8.5 inches and up).
 
While small phones account for 16% of devices overall, they make up only 7% of active users and 4% of app sessions. Full-size tablets, by contrast, are overrepresented on Flurry’s network, reaching 1 billion smartphones and tablets monthly. They account for only 7% of the top 200 device models, but 15% of all active users, and 13% of app sessions.
 
“On the small end, we believe this is because smaller device models, including most BlackBerry devices, are older and therefore have fewer active users per model. They are also not as well-suited to apps because of their small screen sizes,” stated a Flurry blog post today. At the other extreme, the screens of larger tablets are better suited to apps, and so drive more sessions. The iPad, of course, has popularized this category as well.
 
Medium phones like the iPhone and Galaxy smartphones accounted for the vast majority of devices (69%), active users (72%) and sessions (76%). What about phablets, devices in-between phone and tablets that gained attention with the launch of the Galaxy Note in 2011?
 
With just 2% share of the installed based, phablets have yet to make much impact on app usage. Small tablets, of which the Kindle Fire is the best-known model, have done a bit better. They account for 6% of devices, 5% share of active users, and 4% of sessions.

One surprising finding was that tablets -- both large and small combined -- accounted for only 8% of time watching video. Medium phones accounted for the vast majority of viewing, at 85%. That suggests most mobile video viewing, whether at home or on the go, is taking place on handsets.
 
Medium phones accounted for about the same share of time (83%) spent reading books among the five device categories studied, and 64% of time spent playing games. In the latter segment, full-size tablets had 17%, and small ones, 12%. “We expect that tablets may represent a greater share of time spent in book and video apps in the future as tablet ownership expands and tablet owners branch out into more types of apps,” stated the Flurry post.

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