In smartphones, apparently big is in! While much has been written about phablets -- a portmanteau of phone and tablet, denoting a larger-screen phone -- they haven't had widespread adoption ... until now. According to third-party research firm Kantar Worldpanel, phablets claimed 21% of all U.S. smartphone sales in the first calendar quarter of 2015 -- Apple's second fiscal quarter -- up from only 6% market share during last year's corresponding quarter.
As for the 250% market share increase, Kantar credits Apple (AAPL 0.79%) for the huge jump in demand. Apple finally released its first phablet phone -- the iPhone 6 Plus -- last September and has found a hit with the larger-sized unit. According to Kantar, within the greater phablet category, Apple's iPhone 6 Plus achieved a plurality 44% market share.
In the U.S., Apple's overall smartphone dominance was essentially carrier agnostic. Kantar reports Apple dominated carriers AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint with 59%, 43%, and 50% of smartphone sales, respectively, whereas Samsung took the most sales from T-Mobile with 42% of sales. Apple is also winning among defectors, with 11.4% switching from Google's Android to Apple where only 5.9% left iOS for Android.
Kantar brings good news in the European Union as well
In a same-day release, Kantar also provides Apple investors with encouraging news across the Atlantic Ocean. For the three months ended in March, Apple grew market share in the five largest European smartphone markets by 1.8 percentage points -- growing from 18.6% to 20.3% -- on a year-over-year basis. Kantar specifically attributed Apple's gains to European Android defectors, with chief of research Carolina Milanesi noting, "On average, across Europe's big five countries during the first quarter, 32.4% of Apple's new customers switched to iOS from Android."
Android's market share seems to confirm Milanesi's comment: Android market share in the EU5 (Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain) dropped 3.1 percentage points -- falling from 71.5% to 68.4% -- during this period. Competition from Apple, and surprisingly, a strong push from Microsoft's Windows Phone hurt Android's market share in the recently reported quarter.
Could the future surveys be better for Android?
While the greater Android operating system seems to be struggling, it's entirely possible for future Kantar surveys to bring better news for the operating system. First, Samsung's high-end models -- the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge -- came out in mid-April, and the company has made positive overtures in regards to its sales figures, look for Android market share to be bolstered in the U.S. and other developed markets on the strength of Samsung's new units if the company is correct.
The other reason Android's sales market share should increase is due to Apple's sales slowing -- Apple's iPhone sales typically taper off during the second and third calendar quarters (their third and fourth fiscal quarters) as the early adopter crowd has already purchased the new unit and the upgrade cycle slows. In Apple's fourth quarter, there's also a decrease in demand as potential shoppers wait for Apple's new unit.
That said, right now Apple's iPhone unit is firing on all cylinders and should be commended. Samsung -- and the greater Android community -- really needs a hit to compete with Apple in the high-end markets and to lower its defection rate.