20 May 2014

Consequences of Restrictive Phablet Definitions

Opera - Phablet Usage

Opera just released an interesting study that compares the usage pattern of phablets with those of tablets and smartphones. Opera defined "phablets" based on screen size (5-7"), which limited their sample set to "various versions of the Samsung Galaxy Note, Sony Xperia Z, HTC One Max, Nokia Lumia and LG Optimus G Pro". Their results are compiled in the chart above.

According to Opera's study, phablet usage is overwhelmingly skewed towards Social media usage, whereas smartphone and tablet usage is more evenly distributed. The regional distribution of traffic from their sample set is given below.

Phablet Traffic by Region

Based on their chosen sample set, the majority of phablet traffic is from Asia. As a result, there is no way to understand if their study is driven by phablet usage or regional factors. Do Asian users more time on social networking services or is this specific to "phablet" users as defined by them?

As I've previously explained, this methodology sheds little light on the actual impact of phablets and highlights the drawbacks of using restrictive definitions. When studying usage patterns, why is a 4.9" device any less of a phablet than a 5.1" device? The only way to understand the impact of phablets is to study usage patterns across screen sizes. That way we can measure if there is a particular point at which usage patterns shift significantly. If there is no inflection point and the shift is gradual, defining "phablets" becomes even more problematic.