Apple’s iPhone 6 faces challenging launch conditions as it responds to the global growth of a device type as combination of smartphone and tablet, somewhat inelegantly referred to as phablets, according to a study by market research agency TNS.
The iPhone brand, which has historically enjoyed a first-mover advantage, is playing catch-up in an established–and increasingly populated—market comprised of larger display than the Apple smartphone, at a mere 4 inches, currently possesses.
In a TNS study of more than 55,000 Internet users worldwide, the firm found that large screen phones have soared in popularity worldwide.
In Asian markets such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore phablets already comprise more than 30 percent of all smartphones.
"Apple’s share price has been on the up in recent months with expectations rising for the iPhone and a long-awaited entry into wearables. With the introduction of a new screen size, this is more than just a product refresh, and if sales fail to hit market expectations then the share price is sure to suffer," Simon Oastler, digital development director at TNS UK, told eWEEK. "From the point of view of the Apple brand, however, it is most important that consumers can continue to see Apple’s innovation credentials, and that won’t necessarily be measured in sales units."
The growth of phablets appears to have been triggered by the surge in people watching online video on their smartphones.
This is equally popular in markets with low access to other devices, with more than 70 percent of Internet users in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, 47 percent in Saudi Arabia, 45 percent in MEA and 44 percent in India now using their smartphones to watch online video.
Among Apple’s competitors, Oastler said Samsung is a long way ahead, but depending on country, other brands such as LG, HTC and Sony have a significant presence in this category.
Samsung is currently by far the most dominant force in the large-screen display smartphone market, with an average of 25 percent of smartphone market share globally, according to IT research firm IDC.
The company is also enjoying widespread popularity in the market across the globe, with more than 66 percent share in both Hong Kong and South Korea as well as more than 46 percent in both the U.S. and U.K.
Oastler also noted the quality of the display resolution seems to be a category where consumers want to have their cake and eat it too, by demanding larger screens at lower prices, while still keen on high-definition resolution.
"But there is a point at which consumers cannot differentiate between different levels of screen resolution," he noted. "And certainly expectations will be high for their larger phones to deliver great resolution without compromising picture quality."
For the future, Oaster believes the market for bigger smartphones displays will vary by country, and larger screen sizes will have their moment.
"There may well be a reaction against larger screen sizes, with smaller phones re-emerging–but I could see this being avoided if the smart watch category catches on, and successfully provides a second, more convenient screen to complement the larger phones," he said.