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Are phablets impacting the small tablet market?

By Chris Elliott

Globally, shoppers are increasingly opting for larger ‘phablet’ smartphones over the smaller models. Recent Kantar Worldpanel ComTech figures show that phablet sales accounted for 21 percent of US smartphone sales in Q1 of 2015, up from 6 percent for the same period in 2014.

The US trails behind countries in Southeast Asia, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, where consumers have been quicker to adopt phablets; half of all smartphones sold in these countries are phablets according to analytics firm Flurry.

The UK is also witnessing a shift in consumer preference to larger smartphones, with the Guardian reporting in early 2014 that phones with screens bigger than 4.9 inches accounted for 23 percent of shipments in Q1 of 2014, up from a 7 percent share in Q1 of 2013.

The statistics show a changing consumer preference and shift towards phablets; the release of the Apple iPhone 6 plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 since then, is likely to have increased demand for phablets even further.

Smartphone range review

There is ongoing debate surrounding the term ‘phablet’; definitions are split with half of sources citing a large smartphone of 5 inches and above qualifies as a phablet and the other half defining a phablet as 5.5 inches and above. Brand View has reviewed the number of sim free phablets (smartphones with a screen size between 5 and 6.9 inches) in Argos, Currys, Tesco Direct and Very for the last 12 months.

The number of phablet listings has increased 241.9 percent since 6 June 2014, while standard smartphone listings have increased by 95.2 percent.

By mid-April 2015, the gap between the number of phablet and standard smartphone listings has narrowed. If these trends are set to continue phablets could start to outnumber standard smartphones by February 2016.

phablet v smartphone sales

The average screen size of mobile phones has risen by 4.2 percent in the last year from 4.55 inches to 4.75 inches, with the average standard smartphone screen increasing by 3.1 percent. The growing numbers of phablets in the market has helped boost the total average screen size, however the change in standard screen size is most influential.

The average screen size of phablets dropped slightly in the last 12 months to 5.25 inches. This perhaps suggests that smaller phablet models are more popular as opposed to those that exceed 6 inches, such as the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Mega.

average screensize smartphone

Small tablet range review

Brand View has reviewed the number of small tablets in Argos, Currys, Tesco and Very for the same time period; small tablets are defined as tablets with a screen size between 7 and 8.4 inches.

From June to December small tablet listings increased by more than 50 percent, however in the following months it has reduced significantly, although there are still 25.6 percent more small tablets listed compared to a year ago.

The number of small tablet listings declined the most between December 2014 and March 2015; the number of phablets and standard smartphones also stagnated in this time period. This highlights that manufacturers introduced new models in late 2014 in time for the Black Friday weekend and Christmas.

number of small tablets

Shelf price of small tablets

The average shelf price of small tablets has declined almost 20 percent in the last year. The shelf price dropped most significantly in late October and continued to drop prior to the Black Friday weekend and Christmas.

Following Christmas, the average shelf price increased slightly before stabilising for the next six months. In the past 12 months the average shelf price of small tablets has dropped £53.71, this could be seen as a move by these retailers to boost falling sales of small tablets.

shelf price small tablets

Promotional activity of small tablets

In June and July 2014, phablets were promoted with a greater depth of cut than small tablets, however, since August small tablets have been more heavily promoted.

The depth of cut of small tablets has been steadily rising over the last 12 months from 19.2 percent to 23.4 percent. This increasing reduction in the price of small tablets highlights that retailers feel they need to promote them more than phablets.

average depth of cut

The future of small tablets

The increasing promotion and falling average shelf price suggests that sales of small tablets may not be as healthy as they were last year. The explosion in the number of phablet devices available to consumers has undoubtedly impacted on sales of small tablets and could continue to do so when manufacturers announce their latest models later on in the year.

The biggest advantage of a small tablet over a phablet is that it offers a better user experience when watching films or reading an ebook. However, shoppers may be unwilling to spend a large amount of money for this privilege when their phablets can complete these tasks perfectly well. We have already seen the introduction of lower priced small tablets such as the Hudl 2 and Kindle Fire HD this year and this trend is likely to continue as small tablet prices drop to fend off the advances of phablets.


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