Are phablets a phad? Too early to tell

Are phablets a phad? Too early to tell

Summary: Flurry noted that phablet app usage isn't all that hot and proclaims the device category a fad. However, the Samsung Galaxy S4 could change that opinion.


The so-called phablet movement---popularized mostly by Samsung---may merely be a passing fad, according to data compiled by Flurry, an app advertising network. The problem: Samsung's Galaxy S4 is likely to fare well and skew the phablet data going forward.

In a blog post, Flurry outlined what devices are tapping into its network. Flurry defined small phones as devices with 3.5 inch screens and under, medium phones with screens between 3.5 inches and 4.9 inches (iPhone 5, Galaxy S3) and phablets with screens 5 inches to 6.9 inches. For good measure, small tablets had screens with 7 inches to 8.4 inches and full size tablets had screens above 8.5 inches.

This Flurry chart tells the tale:




That light gray sliver---representing phablets---isn't well represented on Flurry's network. Flurry's subhead proclaims phablets are a fad. Android owns the phablet market and Samsung dominates.

Flurry noted:

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.

Here's the problem with Flurry's data, however. It's too early to call phablets a fad. As currently defined, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will qualify as a phablet. That device is likely to sell well.

In other words, Flurry's phablet participation---assuming it keeps with its current definitions---is likely to head higher. If the Samsung Galaxy S4 gets a few quarters under its belt and doesn't move the phablet needle then feel free to proclaim a fad.


Topics: Tablets, Android, Mobility, Samsung, Smartphones

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  • considering phablets are only just catching on

    this data is really not reflecting future trends, it's reflecting past trends
    • Ditto

      Back in the 80s, IBM executives thought that their original PC would ship less than ten units world-wide. Considering that the motherboard contained $200 worth of off-the-shelf components and the box sold for about $5k (keyboard and screen $optional) this seemed like a way over-priced machine particularly considering it didn't yet have an OS beyond the built-in BASIC.

      30ish years later, aside from the niche Macintosh and a small dent made by the Amiga, the bulk of computers today are still derivative of that original PC.

      Who could have predicted that? At about the same time, the Sirius-16 was a far superior machine, and far cheaper. It vanished in a puff of un-smoke.

      Around 2000 everyone though voice-recognition was going to be next big wave and it failed miserably. Even today, it's dodgey at best.

      Now that "technology" has been consumerized and moves at an extremely fast pace, how can anyone predict which innovations are going to go mainstream and which ones will be a brief "phad"?
      • confused?

        IBM PCs in my university class rooms were many tens of units in the 80s and the Apple ][ computers were even more.

        Wikipedia has this for Thomas Watson, the IBM head:
        Although Watson is well known for his alleged 1943 statement, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers", there is scant evidence he made it.
        • Acquiescence

          I'll concede that the quote may somewhat apocryphal but the fact remains that while the IBM PC was a sort-of 16-bit machine, there were dozens of 8-bit machines on the market that outperformed it including the Apple ][.

          IBM's "steel box with a fan in it" sold on reputation, not on what it could do.

          If anything, I believe it was IBM's lack of restriction on the clone market which ultimately led to it being a "successful" platform.
          • Clone Market

            True on the lack of restrictions and clone market. Best thing IBM ever did. Then IBM got "smart" and came out with the proprietary microchannel architecture. No one else could make it and even the peripheral boards had to be licensed. How many of those are around today. And, one could even compare the proliferation of PCs vs. Macs in todays world. The only one making MACs is Apple - they won't even sell you the OS so you can't even make your own as a hobbyist.
  • The S4 is a smartphone, the Note 2 a phablet :-|

    It's not all about measurements alone. Phablets are deliberately wider than your average smartphone, which includes the S4. If the S3 is a smartphone, then clearly the S4 is too. Besides the S4 is 4.99" anyway.

    I'm not sure they're a fad but they're definitely niche.
  • Jokers...

    I have seen few people who use their 'phablet' to make phone calls and it look absolutely ridiculous. For a phone 5 inch is the upper limit.
    • my note 2 works fine for making calls

      and the people I know don't seem to think it looks ridiculous. a lot of people I know went out and bought the note 2 after they saw mine.
    • Why 5-inch oh wise one?

      Who says that 5 inch is the upper limit? A ZDNET poster magically knows what the world needs and how to properly define classifications?
    • same old comment

      People said the same thing about my galaxy nexus (4.5") when it first came out. As I recall the comments were (from iphone users) "holy cow that phone is huge" and "you look ridiculous making phone calls on that gigantic phone". And the typical comments at that time was 4" is the ideal size for a phone.

      Its all perception. Because nobody makes those claims about my phone and the last time I check the phone is still 4.5". People now are acclimated to 4.5" phones so they naturally would say phones should not exceed 5". If you're used to looking at a tiny 3.5" phone like an iphone you're going to look at the other 75% of phones out there as too large. Likewise all phablet users who are accustom to their phones will think iphones are pea sized.
      • duh

        They are pea sized
        richard in norway
  • Another analytic firm spewing no sense.

    These firms are like those blog commentators with their anecdotal evidence like "my friends don't have Android devices."

    Looking at the first graph one can conclude that small tablets are a fad too.
  • Anyone else giggle

    When the iPad Mini was classified as a full sized tablet? Given Apples marketing prowess, this firm must be on something.

    I guess it really is true that studies can be used to show anything the one funding it wants.
    • I'm guessing you don't know the definition of a phablet

      Here is a hint: neither the iPad Mini or the Nexus 7 qualify for it.
    • Re: When the iPad Mini was classified as a full sized tablet?

      Not really, no. The Asus Nexus 7 can fit in a pants pocket, the Ipad Mini can't.
  • oops

    Sorry. I misread that.
  • yeah sure so small tablets are a fad too ?

    My Note II doesn't look like a fad for me and for all people who were fighting to get my Note I. In fact phablets are perfect for quite a lot of people. I find the stylus of the Note series extremly useful too.
  • Not a Fad for me

    I have a Dell Streak Mini 5 collecting dust on a shelf and I simply cannot imagine going back to it from my Samsung Galaxy 7.7 GT-P6800 international Tab/Phone. YES. it is a fully functional 7.7 inch phone. Android 4.0.4
  • Not a fad

    Played with the Nexus 7 the other day. Just to big to carry hands free without a manbag/case.
    If Samsung do increase the screen real estate on the upcoming Note 3 to 6.3" without any change in device size over the 5.5" Note 2, then this for me will be the ultimate mobile device.
    Maybe a change of mindset is needed. Phablets could be viewed as truly portable, full function computers that can replace not only ultrabooks, netbooks etc, but also every other tablet as well.
    Not a fad, the future.
    The Stav
  • Convinced by phablet

    A year ago. I was still using a feature phone. I found people crazy to carry a Note phablet tomake phone call. Then I got a Galaxy Nexus with 4.6" screen. At first I was terrified, but then I started using the phone mainly as a mobile computer and secondary as a phone. Now I wish I have a bigger screen. My next phone will be a phablet.