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Size Matters for Connected Devices. Phablets Don’t.

  
  
  

Flurry now detects about 1 billion smartphones and tablets in use around the world every month. In the last 30 days, we saw activity on more than 2,000 unique device models. As the device base grows, we’re seeing an increasing variety of screen sizes, from sub-smartphones to full-size tablets and beyond. This poses both challenges and opportunities for developers who must consider how audiences, usage behavior and app category affinities vary by form factor.

This report reveals which form factors and screen sizes consumers use most, and for what categories. For this study, we focused on the top 200 device models, as measured by active users in Flurry’s system, which represent more than 80% of all usage. Doing so, five groups emerged based on screen size: 

1. Small phones (e.g., most Blackberries), 3.5” or under screens
2. Medium phones (e.g., iPhone), between 3.5” - 4.9” screens
3. Phablets (e.g., Galaxy Note), 5.0” - 6.9” screens
4. Small Tablets (e.g., Kindle Fire), 7.0” - 8.4” screens
5. Full-size tablets (e.g., the iPad), 8.5” or greater screens

Mid-Sized Smartphones Dominate. Phablets are a Fad.

The top bar in the chart below shows how the top 200 device models break down by form factor in the market. Starting from the left, 16% of devices have screen sizes that are 3.5 inches or fewer in diagonal length. 69% of devices are between 3.5 inches and 4.9 inches, which includes iPhone. The light gray are made up of “phablets” such as the Galaxy Note. The orange are small tablets such as the Kindle Fire and iPad Mini. Finally, the far right shows that 7% of the device models in use are full sized tablets such as the iPad. The two bars below show distributions by active devices (taking into account that some device models have more users than others) and the number of app sessions (taking into account that some device models get used for more app sessions per user than others), respectively.

SizeMatters Chart1 resized 600 

Notice that while 16% of the device models in the market are small phones, they account for only 7% of active devices once users per device are taken into account and 4% of overall app sessions. The opposite is true for tablets, which account for 7% of the top 200 device models yet 15% of all active users and 13% of all app sessions. On the small end, we believe this is because smaller device models, including most BlackBerry devices, are older and therefore have fewer active users per model. They are also not as well-suited to apps because of their small screen sizes. Full-size tablets, however, are ideal for using applications and therefore see a disproportionately higher percent of sessions. They also tend to have more users per device model since this class of devices has been dominated by iPad.

The ‘Is it a phone or is it a tablet’ devices otherwise known as phablets have attracted interest, but currently command a relatively small share (2%) of the device installed base, and their share of active users and sessions is also relatively small.

Form Factor Varies by OS

Not surprisingly, the form factor share of device models and active device users varies by operating system. The chart below shows share of active users by form factor for the different OSs. Inspecting the chart, medium phones are the dominant form factor on all operating systems, except Blackberry, which still has more active users on small phones. Android owns the phablet market and also has the greatest proportion of devices using small tablets. iOS has the greatest share of active devices using large tablets. The only Windows device models that are in the top 200 device models in terms of active users are medium-sized phones.

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Tablets Are Gaming Machines

The chart below shows how total time spent in select popular categories is distributed across form factors.

Time Spent in Categories per Form Factor

Starting at the top, notice that nearly a third of time spent playing games take places on larger devices, namely full-sized tablet, small tablets and phablets. And while they command consumer time spent, they represented only 15% of device models in use in February and 21% of individual connected devices. These differences are statistically significant.

Studying books and videos, it’s somewhat surprising that tablets, which possess larger screens, do not see a larger proportion of time spent. An explanation for the high concentration in time spent in smartphones could be that consumers watch videos from their smartphones on-the-go (e.g., commuting to work on public transit), whereas they opt for a bigger screen to watch video (e.g., computer or TV) when at work or home. We expect that tablets may represent a greater share of time spent in book and video apps in the future as tablet ownership expands and tablet owners branch out into more types of apps.

Consumers Signal Preference for Smartphones & Tablets

As OEMs experiment with an ever-expanding array of form factors, developers need to remain focused on devices most accepted and used by consumers. From our study, consumers most prefer and use apps on medium-sized smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy smartphones and full-sized tablets like the iPad.  In particular, smaller smartphones under-index in terms of app usage compared to the proportion of the installed base they represent, and would suggest they are not worth developers’ support. Phablets appear to make up an insignificant part of the device installed base, and do not show disproportionately high enough app usage to justify support. Tablets, on the other hand show the most over-indexing of usage, especially in games. The success some game developers are having with a tablet-first strategy, like dominant game maker Supercell, may also inspire developers of other types of apps to consider focusing on tablets.

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About Flurry

Flurry is the leading mobile measurement and advertising platform that is optimizing mobile experiences for people everywhere. Flurry's industry-leading Analytics software sees activity in over 400,000 apps on more than 1.3 billion mobile devices worldwide, giving Flurry the deepest understanding of mobile consumer behavior. Flurry turns this insight into accelerated revenue and growth opportunities for app developers, and more effective mobile advertising solutions for brands and marketers. The company is venture backed and headquartered in San Francisco with offices in New York, London, Chicago and Mumbai. 

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