Phablet Devices Post Fastest Mobile Device Growth

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Between January 2014 and January 2015, usage of mobile devices like the iPhone 6 Plus from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and the Samsung Galaxy Note — so-called phablets — has grown by 148%, far faster than any other type of mobile device. Small phones, with screens smaller than about four inches, and full-size tablets both posted lower numbers over the course of the sample period, while medium-size phones and small tablets put up decent if not awesome growth.

Researchers at Flurry Analytics, a Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) company that conducted the study, conclude that “the mobile industry has found a killer form-factor.” The combination of the larger screen and simple navigation with far more portability are the primary reasons for the growth of phablets.

The apps driving phablet growth are sports; news and magazines; and music, media and entertainment. Usage of sports apps rose 30% on smartphones and tablets, but rose 158% on phablets. News and magazine app usage grew 53% on phones and tablets and rose 144% on phablets. Music, media and entertainment app usage grew 103% on phablets, compared with growth of 29% on the other mobile devices.

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The super-charged growth may be partially attributed to the fact that the base in January 2014 was low and that any growth would be relatively large. But the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus last fall almost certainly provided the biggest push. Flurry says that the phablet is a “game-changer” and the “killer media-consumption device.”

Flurry also noted that the real victim of the phablets’ success is the mobile Web:

Since the ascension of phablets, the total time spent in apps compared to mobile web picked up an additional 2%, increasing total time spent in apps to 88% of total time spent on mobile in the US, versus 12% on the mobile web. This is compared to 86% and 14% respectively in April of 2014. Our data shows that this shift is predominantly attributed to phablets.

While growth in entertainment usage and news reading is not terribly surprising, the giant leap in phablet usage for watching sports is a surprise. If there is a single compelling reason to subscribe to pay TV it has to be sports coverage. If consumers are voting with their wallets for more mobile access to sports, those wildly expensive sports broadcasting contracts could be worth far less if they do not include mobile access. The times could indeed be a-changing.

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