Big-screened phones are taking bigger bites out of the handset market, study says

Ahead of Apple’s expected release of two iPhones with bigger screens, a fair question to ask is how many people actually want larger phones?

New data from apps analytics firm Flurry finds that big-screened phones — sometimes called “phablets” — are rapidly growing in popularity. Large-screened phones, defined by Flurry as devices with screens between 5- and 7-inches, comprised 6 percent of the nearly 60,000 active devices examined, a huge increase over the 3 percent spotted last year.


Not only are more users opting for larger phones, but bigger devices are being used more heavily, accounting for 11 percent of app sessions tracked by Flurry. It does appear that people that plan to really hammer their handsets are buying phones with bigger screens, although they may be opting for the faster processor and better cameras that usually come with big-screened phones.


Flurry didn’t find any evidence that big phones are eating into smaller tablet sales, but they did note that big phone users — like small tablet users — tend to read more books on their device.

Among Android devices, big-screened phones are even more ascendant: 18 percent of active Android devices have screens between 5 and 7-inch screens, up from 7 percent last year, although it’s important to note that there isn’t a big iPhone yet which means that users who need a big device may have opted for Android. In short: the installed base for big phones is nearly twice as large as last year, according to Flurry.


Part of the rise of bigger phones can be attributed to the greater availability of bigger phones in the market. If you want the nicest Samsung device available, you’re going to end up with either the Galaxy S5 or the Note, both of which are classified as “phablets” according to the Flurry study. Conversely, part of the screen-mix transition may be because there are fewer high-end phones without bigger screens, so consumers looking for a good Android device may be forced to choose a bigger device.

Still — it’s more evidence that tastes and preferences are changing as more people considering high-end devices are on their second or third smartphone. When the Samsung Galaxy Note, considered the first mainstream phablet with its 5.3-inch screen, first went on sale in 2011, it was roundly mocked. Now Apple is poised to release a device with an even bigger screen. In a few short weeks, we could be reminiscing about the time when Apple still sold “small phones.”