iPhone 6 phablet optimism overdone: Will the masses really go for 5.5 inch screen?

Research firms have been hit with phablet euphoria, but it's unclear whether the masses — beyond tech nerds, business travelers and bookworms — are going to go for large-screen smartphones including the iPhone 6. Pockets aren't keeping up with screen sizes.

Phablet euphoria is running wild as Apple plans to launch a 5.5-inch iPhone that could poach iPad mini sales as well as take some share back from Samsung, which has ruled the Android tablet-meets-smartphone roost. 

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The latest data comes from Yahoo's Flurry unit. The top-line data sounds impressive. Phablets have nearly quadrupled their share of app activity and doubled active users in the last 12 months. A phablet — a device with a screen 5 inches to 6.9 inches — will apparently become even more popular with a large screen iPhone.

But Flurry's data has two items worth noting. First, phablets are going from a small base to a slightly larger one. Flurry found that 10 percent of the market belongs to phablets out of a sample 59,214 devices. The most notable of the phablet mix is Samsung's Galaxy Note.

The second item to note about Flurry's findings is the persona of a phablet user. The typical phablet user today is either connected to the enterprise, a bookworm, a social influencer or entertainment happy. The social influencer crowd seriously overlaps with technology early adopters who may not represent the broader market. People with phablets may be the same people wearing a smartwatch and Google Glass to a meeting.

phablet persona

Business users are a promising demographic — see Apple's partnership with IBM — and bookworms are a brainy bunch. But it's a leap to figure that Apple will popularize a 5.5 inch device for the rest of us. It's quite possible that all the people that want to carry around a phablet — a chore for many — already have one. If you assume at least half of Apple's phablet share will be former Android users, the market isn't exactly growing.

IDC also has been hit with phablet mania and argued that the device category will represent 24.4 percent of the market in 2008, up from 10 percent today. Really?!?

If these guesstimates are correct, then it'll be normal to see people talking on devices the size of a large paperback. Here's the biggest reason to be skeptical about phablet mania: Pant pockets aren't getting any larger. Phablets may take tablet share, but could look like a burden to the non-business, non-social influencer and leisurely reader types (also known as the rest of the population).

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