Analysis of smartphone shipments shows display size matters

Analysis of smartphone shipments shows display size matters

Summary: Research from Canalys reveals a third of smartphones shipped in Q1 had 5-inch plus displays. Will Apple follow suit?


Smartphones are ubiquitous in the U.S., but according to new figures from the independent analyst firm Canalys, variations abound when it comes to the details.

As for total global shipments of smartphones, Americans barely put a dent in the percentage. China clocked in as the leader in smartphone shipments, accounting for 35 percent. The U.S. market took in less than half of that, managing just 12 percent of total global shipments.

Even more telling than the geographic breakdown of shipments is how the devices varied across vendors and operating system providers. Out of all 279.4 million smartphones shipped in Q1 2014, 81 percent were Android devices, with iOS and Windows Phone accounting for 16 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

That's a pretty hefty gap between rival OS providers Android and Apple. 

But according to additional figures from Canalys, there's one area where Apple can make inroads toward capturing a bigger share of the device market, and it's all about screen size.

Smartphones with 5-inch and larger screens grew 369 percent — a considerably greater rate of growth than the overall market. Worldwide, they represented just over a third of shipments. 

Samsung leads this particular market segment, as it held a 44 percent share of devices with 5-inch and above screens.

Diving deeper into the numbers shines light on Apple's strengths, shortcomings and must-haves. With 5-inch and above screens featured on 47 percent of smartphones, a majority of the remaining 53 percent of phones with smaller screens handily belongs to Apple. The Cupertino, California-based powerhouse accounts for 87 percent of high-end smartphones with screens less than 5 inches.


According to Canalys analyst Jessica Kwee:

Consumers now expect high-end devices to have large displays, and Apple's absence in this market will clearly not last long. Apple plainly needs a larger-screen smart phone to remain competitive, and it will look to address this in the coming months.

If rumors are any indication, Apple could be heeding the call with the upcoming WWDC debut of the iPhone 6. Speculation has been accelerating in recent weeks as to the specs of the next-gen iPhone, but the general consensus puts the new screen size in a range of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, bringing it up to par with competitors that have all adopted larger displays.

Even without bulking up its display, Apple's flagship product is still a cash cow for the company, with 43.7 million iPhones sold during its recently reported second quarter. That made it the iPhone's third best quarter to date.

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Topics: iOS, Android, Mobile OS, Mobility

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  • So

    2/3ds of shipments were not 5 inches or more.
    • It pays to read the article closer before apologizing for Apple...

      "5-inch and above screens featured on 47 percent of smartphones"

      You just saw 1/3rd and didn;t read down! 1/3 is 33%, 47% is much closer to 1/2, or it was when I went to school.
      • Data is contradictory

        The header line with 1/3 mentioned and the pie chart clearly shows that 2/3 of smartphones are less than 5".

        But there is also that line that talks of 47% which baffles me. Can the author clarify which is good or if both are good, they must not refer to the same data source.
      • Still it only shipped 16%

        So its still in only 16% of the market... And alot of its shipments were older iPhones and not 5's
  • Hm...

    Android is now further ahead of Apple (6x) than Apple is ahead of Windows Phone (5x). I wonder if WP will catch Apple before Apple catches Android...
    • Huh? Wrong on so many levels.

      "WP will catch Apple before Apple catches Android"

      1. the gap between WP & Apple is shrinking, while the gap between Apple and Android is widening.

      2. WP is growing fast (from a very small base) at the moment, due to price cuts and incentives; no promise that will continue.

      3. Apple is still steadily declining from its once dominant market position (despite sales rising), and will continue to do so until it reaches 7.5 - 10% of the market.

      4. Android is continuing to rise, for the moment.
      • Only in your demented world

        WP is still not gaining traction, due to build quality "issues", and in general it's the 5th most popular OS (world wide).
        I hate trolls also
    • Apple wont ever catch Android

      Wp is growing, Apple is slowing. The gap is widening. Especially as the market goes towards cheaper devices for emerging markets, Apple has no place. They are shrinking into irrelevancy.
  • It may explain why tablet sales are down

    a super-large phone may fill that niche. Personally I'm OK with smaller size phones (my BB Torch is tiny), but lots of people I know want the large screens.
    • because at the end of the day

      Its better to have one good device that does everything. Instead of having to carry 2 devices or pay for 2 devices or even link 2 devices together..
    • Mac_PC_FenceSitter...

      ...I think you're right.

      IMO, tablets are fundamentally limited devices, in terms of user input (relative to small laptops) and flexibility (relative to smartphones). I think we'll see the standalone tablet market shrink dramatically in the next 5-10 years, replaced by larger smartphones that can function as smaller tablets, and laptop/tablet convertibles (with keyboard dock, shape-shifting form factors, or something similar) in the 10" to 13" range. Moving the tablet towards hybrid devices (i.e. tablets with cellular capabilities or with physical keyboards) will greatly reduce their limitations and dramatically broaden their niche of uses.
  • Why?

    What makes large screens popular? Do that many people have bad eyes? Or is it just a "more-is-better" thing? My not-so-young eyes have no problem at all with a 4-inch screen. What kind of apps are better on a large screen? I'm seriously puzzled.
    • Need bigger screens because websites are now BADLY designed

      Take the changes in PC World and PC Mag websites, the former having changed in August 2012. HORRIBLE. Big ugly pictures with no text to 'translate' them, all over the place. I just don't even go there, anymore. ZDnet is not quite that bad, has text you can read. Text-based websites are great for smaller screens. On bigger screens, you can see more ALL AT ONCE, so text is the way these sites should go. But, they don't.

      Windows 8 makes the same mistake, as did Youtube. Horrible navigation, big pictures which make you scroll forever, so you just don't bother, after awhile. Hence the need for bigger screens.

      Frankly, I wouldn't buy a tablet or smartphone because to me these are accidents waiting to happen. But occasionally I look into someone's rave review -- like last week's ZDnet article on the Amazon Fire -- but then go back to my preference, a netbook for travel and a laptop/desktop for sedentary use. If I was forced to buy a tablet OR smartphone, obviously I'd want the latter, so to get two functions from one gizmo. So then, bigger screen.
    • Me too.

      There has always been a trend towards compactness in objects like cameras, gps units, etc This is kind of bucking the trend. It will be interesting to see if Apple brings out a larger phone just how people will go.
      • The trend towards compactness... all about trying to provide products that people can carry easily, preferably in their pockets. A larger smartphone can still be carried in a person's pocket.

        Had tablets been introduced before smartphones (and keep in mind Steve Jobs envisioned tablets before he envisioned smartphones), the trend towards smaller devices would be more obvious.
    • Whatever

      People said the exact same thing when Apple released iPad Mini. So many people were saying, "I would never enjoy using that thing, it is too small!" Then some way or another they wound up getting and using the iPad Mini and they absolutely loved it.

      I've already been there done that regarding smart phones with larger screens and I'm absolutely salivating at the chance to get an iPhone with a 5.7" screen or thereabouts. I think the ideal size device is somewhere between 5.5" and 7". I also find myself using my iPhone more than my iPad because it's more portable and I like the design. If my iPhone was 5.5" I would probably sell my iPad Mini Retina cause I wouldn't have any use for it.
      • YEa

        well the regular iPad is frigging huge and you might as well carry a laptop. Considering it does about 1/4th of what a laptop does at roughly 200% the price.
    • it's all about baby pics and cat videos

      Looking at baby pics and cat videos is better on large screen phones.
      And that's all you need to justify the large screen if nothing else.
      Some larger screen phones can even splitscreen and show the baby pic AND the cat video at the same time.
      That's like having 2 phone screens in 1.
      • split screen

        I might like to have two apps showing at once, but I look at pictures very seldom, compared with other functions. I don't want to carry around a big phone. My great niece was showing me her Galaxy S5, and I found that I couldn't put it in my shirt pocket. It was too wide, and too long. I guess if you are a woman with a capacious purse, it might be nice, but holding it felt like I was trying to hold my 8" tablet. No thanks.
    • Better to ask "why were they so small?"

      They reached the point where adult fingers had problems with keyboards, and as web use rose (esp video), a larger phone was better. Plus smaller phones had useless battery life.

      They made them smaller and smaller, 'because they could', and people went along with it for a while - then they woke up and said "Hold on, a larger phone would be better in 17 ways and worse in 1. What are we doing?"