Pha-La-La: A Real Phabulous Holiday

By: Flurry

By: Jarah Euston, VP of Growth

Christmas is traditionally the biggest day of the year for new smart-device activations and app downloads, and 2015 was no exception, with new device activations and app installs shattering record after record. As we do every year, Flurry examined what was waiting under the Christmas tree last week, based on the 780,000 apps we track.

Increasing by a Factor of Two: 27% of New Devices Were Phablets

Distribution of New Devices by Form Factor Week Leading to Christmas - Full size tablets, small tablets, phablets, medium phones, small phones

More and more, consumers are gravitating toward the large screen of phablets and it looks like this once-derided (even by us!) form factor appears here to stay. The chart above plots new device activations in the week leading up to Christmas by form factor, over the last three years.

Back in 2013, only 4% of new device activations during the week leading up to Christmas were phablets. Fast forward two years and a whopping 27% of all new devices were phablets. That’s doubling share in only 12 months!

In the early days it appeared that phablets were stealing share from tablets, with tablet share decreasing from 17% in 2013 to 11% 2014. For the first time in 2015 though, it appears consumers are opting for phablets- not instead of a tablet- but instead of a smaller-sized phone. Meanwhile, small phones with a screen size less than 3.5” are nearly extinct. We’d be surprised if they even make it on the chart next year.

Phablets Become the Dominant Form Factor for Android

Distribution of New Devices by Form Factor and Operating System, Christmas 2015 - Full size tablets, small tablets, phablets, medium phones, small phones

Of course the introduction of an Apple phablet- and subsequently the iPhone 6s Plus- had a lot to do with the strength of phablets. But that’s not the whole story.  When we examined the form factor distribution by operating system we saw that for the first time phablets accounted for half of all Android devices! The popularity of the Samsung Galaxy Note and its imitators have changed the Android game, especially in Asian markets.

Apple’s phablet was introduced in September 2014, and in less than a year and a half has commanded 12% share of all Apple devices activated during Christmas week. This appears to be coming at the expense of medium phones and small tablets as more users opt for the size in between the iPhone and iPad Mini. You’ll note we did not break out a “Large Tablet” category for the new iPad Pro. These are grouped into “Full-Size Tablets” and represented less than 1% of device activations.  

Apple Continues to Dominate Holiday Sales

Apple Continues to Dominate Holiday Sales

We next examined which manufacturers were winning the holiday shopping battle. Apple again took the top spot, with 49.1% of all new devices down 2.2 percentage points from 51.3% last year. Samsung clocked in at 19.8%, up 2.1% from  to 17.7% in 2014, driven by the new Galaxy Grand Prime, Core Prime, and S6.  

Microsoft’s Nokia lost share from 2014, dropping from 5.8% to 2%. Sony fell out of the top five manufacturers all together, while Xiaomi made the cut for the first time with 1.5% of all new activations during Christmas week. This is especially striking since Christmas is not the biggest gifting day of the year in China, and makes Xiaomi’s rumored US-entry next year even more exciting.

It’s Still Christmas for App Downloads, Too

App Installs on Christmas Day Index (US Only)

Once again, Christmas was the biggest day of the year for app downloads. On Christmas Day in 2015, Flurry tracked 2.2x as many app installs as on an average day in December. For app developers who scrambled to ship apps before the holidays and spent heavily on app marketing, it appears that the efforts have paid off!

For all the app developers out there, we hope you got some rest over the holiday as we know the mobile market shows no sign of stopping! Stay tuned for our 2015 year in review post in the coming days.