iPad sales may be waning, but Apple is leading a surging US phablet market, according to a new report.
Phablets accounted for 21 percent of all smartphone sales in the US during the first quarter of the year, almost quadrupling the six percent share the handsets had at the same time last year, according to figures published this week by analyst Kantar WorldPanel Comtech.
It also looks like Apple's iPhone 6 drove much of that increase. According to Kantar, Apple's iPhone 6 Plus made up 44 percent of the phablet category and was the most popular phablet, meaning Apple has beaten Samsung in a field the Korean company helped establish with its Galaxy Note line.
Phablets typically have displays larger than 5.5 inches; Google's Nexus 6, LG's G4 and G3, and Microsoft's Lumia 1520 are all examples of this product category.
Phablet sales have risen far faster in the US than in the UK. Dominic Sunnebo, business unit director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe, told ZDNet phablets accounted for just nine percent of all smartphone sales in the UK in the first quarter, up from three percent last year.
Apple's bigger screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models have spurred the two best quarters in its history, seeing Apple briefly become the biggest smartphone seller ahead of Samsung, despite Samsung's much broader range of smartphones.
The release of Apple's phablet was well-timed, given the consistent decline in iPad sales from its peak in 2013, and apparently the release schedule was part of Apple's strategy. Answering a question about the 12.62 million iPads sold in the second quarter, Apple CEO Tim Cook told analysts that the iPhone and the Mac were cannibalising iPad sales.
"Have we had cannibalization? The answer is yes. We're clearly seeing cannibalization from iPhone and on the other side, from the Mac. And of course, as I've said before, we've never worried about that. It is what it is. That will play out, and at some point, it will stabilize. I'm not sure precisely when, but I'm pretty confident that it will," Cook said, according to Seeking Alpha's transcript.
The Apple CEO made similar remarks over questions that the iPad Mini was eating into sales of the larger iPad in 2013, saying that "if we don't cannibalise, someone else will" -- a line borrowed from his predecessor, Steve Jobs.
According to Kantar, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus represent 18 percent of all iPhones in use in the US, which roughly lines up with Cook's comments that globally Apple had converted 20 percent of its installed base to the two new devices. Kantar also notes 65 percent of Apple's US installed base has an iPhone 5 or above, which bodes well for the Apple Watch.
It appears that US consumers are also more faithful to either their iOS or Android, compared to the Brits. Kantar said that 11.4 percent of new iOS customers in the US switched from Android, down from 14.6 percent in the corresponding quarter last year, while only 5.9 percent of new Android users came from iOS. That was down from 9.8 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Last quarter in the UK, 25 percent of new iOS owners had moved from Android, Kantar said.
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