If this year’s holiday season is any indication, it looks as though 2016 will be the year of the phablet. Both TechCrunch and 9 to 5 Mac have reports citing new figures from Yahoo-owned analytic firm Flurry Insights. In the week leading to Christmas, phablets represented 27% of new devices—up from 13% for the same period last year, and 4% for that period in 2013. Both full-sized and small tablets saw their share dwindle over the last couple of years, and represented only 9% each this year.
When you split it out by operating system, things look even more interesting. Apple only recently introduced its own line of phablets, as the first iPhones had a tiny 3.5” screen and for the longest time (while Steve Jobs was alive) it was felt iPhones wouldn’t ever go bigger than 4”. It was just the right size for one-handed use. Perhaps as a result, only 12% of iOS devices are phablets—while 50% of Android devices are.
The distribution of new device activations was also kind of lopsided. Apple was the clear winner, with 49.1% of new device activations over the Christmas holiday. In next place was Samsung, with 19.8%—and the next three, Nokia, LG, and Xiaomi, had only 2.0%, 1.7%, and 1.5% respectively.
I’m looking forward to receiving my own phablet. My kind and thoughtful brother, seeing the problems I was having with my aging 2013 first-gen Moto X, decided to get me a Nexus 6. I’m expecting it to arrive tomorrow or more likely the next day, though today I got my first accessories—a MoKo kickstand case and TruShield tempered glass screen protectors. Holding the case gave me my first real inkling of what it was going to be like to have a phone of that size. It kind of reminds me of one of those immense Texas Instruments graphing calculators I had in high school.
I think it’s going to be great for e-reading. (And David Rothman, who has the same model, knows it is.) My Nexus 7 tablet makes a good reader, but it’s not something I can easily carry in a pocket—at least not in the bulky case I use. My 7” Fire actually will fit nicely into my back pocket—but I want to be sure I don’t accidentally sit on it! This Nexus looks small enough for a pocket, but big enough to do some serious reading—or gaming, for that matter. I expect it should have better battery life than my Moto X, too, since it will have more room to fit a bigger one in the case.
The most interesting thing to me from those figures I cited earlier is that people seem to be moving toward phablets as they’re moving away from both smaller phones and non-phone tablets. It’s like they’re converging on a form factor that’s small enough to be portable but large enough to get at least some semi-productive use from. I know I would have felt silly hooking up a Bluetooth keyboard to my little Moto X—but for something like a Nexus 6, that’s just a little smaller than my Nexus 7, it doesn’t seem at all far-fetched.
While people are still buying tablets—especially bigger ones meant for real productivity uses—phones are far more ubiquitous, not to mention more easily useful for communication without needing a hotspot like the Karma Go. I kind of wish they’d come up with a name that sounds less silly than “phablet,” but I imagine people felt the same way about other portmanteau words like “brunch.”
I can’t wait to see how this will work. It just might be phabulous!