It's official: To the surprise of no one, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus smartphones flew off the proverbial shelves immediately after becoming available for pre-order. In fact, CEO Tim Cook issued an announcement that the two phones set a new Apple record, selling over four million devices in the first 24 hours they were available for pre-order. Not bad.
The excitement seems to have caught Apple by surprise to some extent, in that CEO Tim Cook said the demand for the two smartphones outweighed supply, so some deliveries won't happen until next month. One of the new phones, the iPhone 6 Plus, is Apple's first foray into the world of phablets. Though Cook didn't say just how many of the four million-plus pre-ordered phones were of the phablet variety, it's safe to say those caught the attention of iFanatics, too. And that may be just what the doctor ordered for Apple's longtime nemesis Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) as it struggles to get its own phablet sales jump-started.
Microsoft and the Apple phablet
Again, specific sales figures for each of Apple's two new smartphones weren't disclosed with Cook's recent announcements, but based on availability and wait times, it appears the iPhone 6 phablet model sold out first. Approximate wait times for the iPhone 6 Plus have reached as long as three to four weeks, while the delay for the "traditional" smartphone is running about a week and a half, give or take.
By most accounts, the iPhone 6 Plus, with its 5.5 inch screen -- which is on the low end of the generally accepted phablet specs of 5.5 inches to 7 inches -- and up to 128GB of storage, is all iFans had hoped it would be. And with each order, Apple is essentially aiding the entire phablet market by slowly making the larger screen smartphone more than simply a niche player, but a mainstream device, which must be music to the ears of Microsoft.
Prior to completing the acquisition of Nokia's devices and services unit earlier this year, Microsoft and its former mobile partner released what was then one of the top-of-the-line phablets available: the Lumia 1520. Like Apple and a host of mobile industry pundits, Microsoft has been operating under the assumption that phablet sales were set to take off. Though the predictions are impressive, so far, phablets have yet to hit the mainstream.
According to one estimate, phablet sales will account for 59% of the smartphone market by 2019 with sales of 1.5 billion units. Phablet market share, so say the experts, will grow nearly twice as fast as smartphones during each of the next five years. To Microsoft's chagrin, the notion that phablets will surpass traditional smartphone sales seems a bit aggressive, and lackluster Lumia 1520 sales would seem to contradict all of those estimates.
But with Apple now in the phablet mix, and early indications of overwhelming success, it stands to reason many who shunned phablets just a short time ago may be willing to take another look. And even though Microsoft's Lumia 1520 is about a year old, a side-by-side comparison shows it stacks up just fine next the iPhone 6 Plus, and even surpasses it in several key areas, including the all-important camera feature. The Lumia 1520's 20-megapixel camera with 6-lens optics is top of the line, to be sure, not to mention the Microsoft phablet's larger battery capacity than the iPhone 6 Plus.
Despite a favorable comparison to Apple's foray into phablets, Microsoft's efforts are hampered by the fact it's not Apple. There are few, if any, brands in the world that command the kind of loyalty Apple does from its iFan base. Still, as Apple phablets become commonplace among the masses, even non-Apple folks will begin exploring the notion of a tablet-like smartphone. And even without the "iEverything or die" mentality of Apple's ardent supporters, Microsoft's Lumia 1520 may finally start making a dent in what will eventually become a huge market.
Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.