Phab Phenom: The Revenge Of The Watchman

Resistance is futile. Bigger is more. Bigger is better. Bigger is…bigger. Because….America.

I admit I resisted the SUV-ification of the smartphone for a while. Even with that first iPhone 6 Plus I debated for a week or so whether to downsize to the iPhone 6 during the return window. I was packing a brick in my front pocket now. It reminded me of its massive, inconvenient presence every time I sat down or entered a car seat. Really? For the sake of having a smartphone I needed to readjust my crotch just to sit without gutting myself? Perhaps it was also that I am old enough to recall the Sony Watchman -- that comic overreach in portability of the 80s and 90s. Nothing spelled “media NERD” better than these attempts by Sony to extend the Walkman audio innovation into TV.  

Yeah, well if 57 years on the planet has taught me anything it is that we can get used to just about anything. Not to mention that 57-year-old eyes like just about everything bigger. In fact, I will admit that the bigger screen has allowed me to fall into using the phone for a much broader range of activities and much longer reading times.



And according to year-end metrics released this morning from Yahoo’s app analytics firm Flurry, I am not alone.  Overall app use (app sessions) grew 58% last year, according to the company’s new report. But the most striking figure is how app sessions on larger scree or “phablet” smartphones far, far outpaced the averages. In key categories of usage like “News and Magazines,” which saw a leap of 135% last year in opens, phablet use was up over 5 times that -- or 721%. In the Sports category, overall usage increased 53%, but among phablet owners it was up 274%. In the Music and Entertainment segment, large screen users upped their opens by 88%, compared to 21% on average.

The bottom line is that bigger screens not only invite more reading and video viewing behaviors, they accelerate them strikingly. The time spent metric across devices was up by double digits on all screens last year except small phones (up 8%). On medium-sized phones, usage time increased 85%. On small tablets we spent 81% more time and even on the beleaguered large tablet format, we increased usage 26%. We are seeing a real competitor to TV emerge as a preferred screen for media consumption. It is not coincidental that in all of this shift to larger screens, growth in the News and Magazines app category was second only to the expanded use of personalization tools like emojis and keyboards last year.

Flurry anticipates phablet dominance by this time next year. On Christmas, 27% of all new devices activated were phablets, and more than half of new Android devices were these larger screens.  

Sony had it right, after all. We do want TV screens in our pockets, even at the light risk of intestinal disfigurement. Because, well, America.  

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