Commentary

Phablets Exploding -- In a Good Way

No matter how you feel about the cutesy portmanteau name (I think it sounds kind of gross, somehow) there’s no question phablets, the mid-size devices combining the best of smartphones and tablets, are taking the mobile world by storm. And that’s good news for both publishers and advertisers, who are getting a little more space and flexibility for their content and messages thanks to the larger screen size.

According to a new study by Flurry, Yahoo’s platform for app developers, the usage rate for phablets like the iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note increased 148% from January 2014 to January 2015, compared to a 38% increase for medium-sized smartphones like the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5, and a 14% increase for small tablets. Meanwhile, usage rates for full-size tablets declined 20%, and small phones sank 16%.

That means phablets were the main source of growth for mobile usage overall, contributing the lion’s share of the total 78% increase.

Publishers and advertisers stand to benefit from the rise of phablets, as Flurry found that the fastest-growing usage categories were in sports content, up 158%; news and magazines, up 144%; and music, media and entertainment, up 103%. By contrast, across all device types sports grew just 30%, news and magazines 53%, and music, media, and entertainment 29%.

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Phablets are also driving even greater usage of mobile apps at the expense of the mobile Web, Flurry found, with apps now accounting for 88% of total time spent on mobile per their calculations, up from 86% last spring.

A separate forecast by IDC, published last September, predicts total shipments of phablets (defined by IDC as having screens measuring 5.5 to 7 inches) will increase from 175 million in 2014 to 318 million this year -- surpassing forecasts for tablet shipments of 233 million this year.  In proportional terms, phablets will increase from 14% of the smart mobile device market in 2014 to 32.2% in 2018.

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