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iPhone 6 Plus boosts U.S. 'phablet' share, but the smaller iPhone 6 is what sells

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 4, 2014
5.5-in. and larger smartphones jump from 2 percent last year to 10 percent; this after Apple enters big-screen sweepstake.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
A customer holds an iPhone 6 (R) and iPhone 6 Plus after the phones went on sale Sept. 19. Credit: Image credit: REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Apple's larger iPhone 6 Plus grabbed 41% of all U.S. sales of smartphones with screens 5.5-in. and larger during a recent three-month stretch, even though it was available -- and only in short supply -- for just six weeks.

According to Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, which regularly polls consumers on a variety of topics, the 5.5-in. iPhone 6 Plus accounted for four-in-every-10 sales of so-called "phablets" in the three months that ended with October.

"That tells me that there were lots of users who were waiting for Apple to make a larger iPhone rather than buying a large Android phone, like the Samsung Note," said Carolina Milanesi, Comtech's U.S. chief of research, in an interview today.

The introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus was largely responsible for a significant jump in the percentage of 5.5-in. and larger smartphones sold in the three months, added Milanesi. This year, those bigger-screen devices captured 10% of total U.S. sales, five times the 2% of sales during the same stretch in 2013.

Even so, Milanesi said that the iPhone 6, the 4.7-in. smaller sibling, outsold the iPhone 6 Plus by more than three-to-one since their Sept. 19 on-sale roll-out. Her numbers were generally in line with others' who have noted similar sales splits.

"Remember, these results are somewhat skewed by the constrained supply," Milanesi cautioned, referring to the initial longer lag between ordering and shipping for the iPhone 6 Plus. As of Wednesday, however, those delays were three-to-five business days for all 16GB and 64GB configurations of both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and seven-to-ten for the 128GB devices.

During the August-October poll period, 33% of the iPhones sold were the iPhone 6, while 10% were the iPhone 6 Plus, said Milanesi. Last year's iPhone 5S and 5C accounted for 26% and 18%, respectively.

The steadfastness of the older models -- which combined to make up nearly half of all sales -- showed Milanesi that price matters, even to Apple's customers. "There are more options this year than last from an Apple perspective," she said, citing the two models at the high end. "But consumers don't have to buy at that high end for a good experience, and Apple needs to continue to have something at those lower price points to compete."

Apple started selling the iPhone 5S and 5C at reduced prices when it introduced the new devices, dropping the price of the former to $99 with a two-year contract and the latter to zero.


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