Supersized smartphones aren’t just cutting into sales of smaller tablets. These devices, known as “phablets,” are reshaping consumer behavior.
A new study from Opera Mediaworks found that people use these larger-screen devices — which combine a smartphone’s instant access to information with the tablet’s richer viewing experience — in ways that are distinct from how they use other portable gadgets.
Social networking dominates use on phablets, accounting for nearly 54 percent of activity on these devices, Opera Mediaworks found. While that’s similar to smartphones, it’s much higher than the global average for all mobile devices.
Phablet users checked sports scores, news and information less frequently than other smartphone owners. Despite the larger screen size, phablets aren’t replacing tablets when it comes to playing games, listening to music or watching video.
Opera Mediaworks President Scott Swanson said the study was inspired by a panel discussion that broached the issue of slowing Apple iPad sales and shifting behavior among college students, who were ditching their tablets in favor of their laptops and smartphones.
That raised questions about whether long-held industry assumptions about smartphones continued to hold true on phablets — namely, that these devices were used in quick bursts of activity, Swanson said.
Opera identified 13 devices with diagonal screen sizes of 5 inches to 7 inches, including the Samsung Galaxy Note and the Sony Xperia Z. Then, it analyzed the traffic running across its mobile ad platform in March and April to determine what sites and apps users accessed.
“What we discovered is people now want to use their [phablets] for both purposes — to run around town, use the map, check email, text a friend that you’re running late,” Swanson said. “Then they were also using it at home, sometimes instead of a tablet, for checking social media.”
Phablet traffic volume is highest in the morning (9 am to noon), then drops. Users are most engaged with their devices during the evening hours of 8 pm to 10 pm.
Understanding how consumers use new devices is important, Swanson said, as they gain in popularity.
Just 20 million of the 980 million smartphones shipped last year were phablets, though research projects shipments will reach 120 million by 2018.