Several years following their North American debut, smartphones with five-inch and larger screens, nicknamed phablets, have become decidedly mainstream. Samsung has designed both of its latest flagship Galaxy S devices with screens surpassing the five-inch mark, and Apple released its first phablet-style iPhone earlier this fall. With Samsung’s sizable number of offerings in the segment, it’s no wonder that users of its larger-screened smartphones drive more than 77% of all phablet-based Web traffic within North America. However, current usage statistics point to a competitive marketplace with a variety of brands achieving success with new five-inch and greater phone models.
To quantify the distribution of Web usage among all available phablet models, Chitika Insights sampled tens of millions of U.S. and Canadian smartphone-based online ad impressions running through the Chitika Ad Network. The impressions were then segmented based on phone screen size. The data used to compile current usage share were drawn across the time range of November 6 through 12, 2014.
As seen above, Samsung devices represent the four largest sources of phablet-based Web traffic within North America. Samsung Galaxy S5 users generate close to 30% of all North American smartphone Web traffic, with Samsung Galaxy S4 users slightly behind at 25.5%. The Galaxy Note 3 and 2 are the next biggest traffic sources in the segment, at 14% and 6% respectively. Samsung released the aforementioned devices across all major U.S. carriers accompanied by extensive marketing efforts, likely contributing to the comparatively greater shares. Web traffic coming from the company’s most recent phablet-style device, the Galaxy Note 4, is driven nearly equally by AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile users, with Sprint-based traffic a distant fourth, likely due to the carrier taking pre-orders for the phone for $350 on contract, the highest price point of any other U.S. operator. While Sprint eventually dropped the price to be more in line with competitors, the higher cost may have impacted initial sales numbers.
The fifth-largest source of traffic among North American phablets is the LG G2 – a phone that was a big driver of LG’s success in early 2014, as the company experienced the steepest year-over-year North American usage share gains of any Android brand.
Apple’s entry into the space was not without its share of drama, as initial usage statistics indicated that the difficulties in meeting demand for the iPhone 6 Plus likely contributed to a relatively low adoption rate as compared to the iPhone 6. However, with Apple helping address some supply issues in the weeks since the phone’s launch, users of the company’s largest iPhone model are now driving more Web traffic than the LG G3 and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, among other smartphones. Particularly considering recent reports pointing to a refreshed stock of some iPhone 6 Plus models, we expect the iPhone 6 Plus’ share to continue growing through the holiday season.
Overall, phablets are responsible for a growing portion of North American smartphone Web traffic, as seen in the year-over-year graph below, which examines a full month of usage data from September 2013 and 2014.
With Google having just released its six-inch Nexus 6 – one of the biggest smartphones ever mass marketed within North America – it’s clear that brands remain bullish on the appeal of phablets. Considering that these devices have remained popular despite their cost typically ranging between $600 and $800 off contract, and at least $199 with a contract, consumers are undoubtedly placing a good deal of value on this larger-screened experience – something that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.