Phablets have enjoyed plenty of positive press over the last few months. The category popularized by devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note and, soon, the almost-as-large Samsung Galaxy S4, is expected to grow increasingly popular over the next few years, representing a $135 billion market by 2015. And, at the same time, small, 7-to 8-inch tablets might surpass sales of larger, 9-and 10-inch tablets this year. Tablets are shrinking, smartphones are growing, and that’s that.
Flurry, a mobile analytics company, has set out to prove that these trends haven’t been as profound as we might expect. After studying the top 200 devices on its network — 80 percent of all usage — the company reports that phablets might just be a fad after all. Or, put another way: Phablets are the MC Hammer of technology. Hot, catchy, and potentially doomed to being remembered mostly for ridiculous outfits. (Alright, maybe not that last one.)
According to Flurry’s report, mid-sized devices like Apple’s iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy smartphone line (excluding the yet-to-be released Galaxy S4, naturally) dominate the devices used in its network, shown in this graph:
The company then analyzed what consumers were using their devices for. While one might have expected phablets to gain on mid-sized smartphones in this category, given an earlier report that phablet owners use more data than other device owners, mid-sized devices won out here as well. (See below.)
“As OEMs experiment with an ever-expanding array of form factors, developers need to remain focused on devices most accepted and used by consumers,” the report states. “Phablets appear to make up an insignificant part of the device installed base, and do not show disproportionally high enough app usage to justify support.”
That’s far different from what we’ve been hearing over the last few months, as everyone from TechCrunch and Quartz to Reuters and, yes, PandoDaily have predicted the rise of the phablet category. The lines between smartphones and tablets were blurring — what’s 0.1 inches to a consumer? — and small devices would soon like quaint.
Flurry’s report suggests otherwise. Whether or not this will be the norm in just a few years is hard to predict. It was only a few years ago that a keyboard-less smartphone seemed preposterous, yet now BlackBerry is one of the few companies building QWERTY-equipped devices — and even it launched a touch-screen smartphone first. Large displays could easily ramp up in the same way.
But, at least for now, it’s too early to count smaller (and, for tablets, larger) devices out, no matter how popular the Galaxy Note or iPad mini are.