Once dismissed as an oddity in the consumer smartphone market, large-screened phones – also known as "phablets" – now account for one out of every five phones shipped worldwide. This according to the newest figures from market analysis firm IDC. The firm's most recent Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report also found market share numbers that support previous reports that put Google's Android above 80 percent in worldwide shipment market share.
In the third quarter of this year, manufacturers shipped 261.1 million smartphone units into channels. Twenty-one percent of those were devices with screens measuring between five and seven inches diagonally. Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 is likely the leading device in this category, as the Note series virtually launched the phablet trend, and the South Korean tech giant regularly announces shipment milestones for that line of devices.
Earlier analyses, though, pegged the rise of larger-screened devices as a fad. Medium-sized phones remain the overall favorite among consumers, but the surge in other manufacturers offering their own Note-sized and larger devices indicates that there is consumer demand for that form factor.
"Almost all successful Android vendors have added one or more 5-7-inch phablets to their product portfolios," said Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "And Nokia's recent announcement of the Lumia 1320 and 1520 put them in the category as well. In 3Q13, phablet shipments accounted for 21% of the smartphone market, up from just 3% a year ago. We believe the absence of a large-screen device may have contributed to Apple's inability to grow share in the third quarter."
A number of analysts and tech outlets have criticized Apple for so far neglecting to produce a larger-screened device. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that Apple would not make such a device until it can do so without making trade-offs in terms of battery life and other factors. Rumors of a larger iPhone have lingered for some time, and they recently reemerged with reports that the company would come out with devices featuring larger, curved-glass screens, possibly with touch sensitivity.
IDC's numbers supported previous looks at the industry from other analysts. Android continues to grow its share as the smartphone market expands, even though only Samsung is making money from its Android smartphone operations. Apple shipped more iPhones year-over-year, but its share of the market decreased. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform expanded its share, largely on the back of Nokia's smartphone efforts.