iPhone 6 Plus leads phablet sales in US

Apple's big-screened phone snagged 44 percent of all phablet sales in the US last quarter, says research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Apple's iPhone 6 Plus was the top seller among phablets last quarter. Sarah Tew/CNET

Phablets were hot in the US during the first quarter of the year, and Apple's iPhone 6 Plus was the hottest of them all, according to a report out Wednesday from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Phablets, which are typically defined as smartphones with screen sizes of 5.5 inches or larger, accounted for 21 percent of all US smartphone sales last quarter. That number was a huge jump from just 6 percent in the first quarter of 2014, according to Kantar.

The phablet that led the pack was Apple's iPhone 6 Plus. Equipped with a screen size of 5.5 inches, the 6 Plus took in 44 percent of all US phablet sales last quarter. To no surprise, screen size was cited as the No. 1 reason for choosing a phablet among 43 percent of iOS users and 47 percent of Android users.

Launched last September, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were Apple's first attempts to capture a growing base of consumers craving big-screened smartphones. Before the new phones were released, Apple had been losing smartphone market share and customers to phones running Google's Android operating system, especially Samsung devices. But since the two iPhones have been introduced, Apple has gained lost ground, although Samsung regained the top spot last quarter, according to a report released last month by Strategy Analytics.

Overall, iPhone sales took the lead last quarter at AT&T, Verizon and Sprint where they accounted for 59 percent, 43 percent and 50 percent of all smartphone sales, respectively, Kantar said. Samsung was the top choice among smartphone buyers at T-Mobile with a share of 42 percent.

Among new iPhone customers last quarter, 11.4 percent jumped ship from Android, down from 14.6 percent in the same quarter last year. Among new Android owners, 5.9 percent switched from an iPhone, compared with 9.8 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Those numbers are surprising, especially given the popularity of the new iPhones and recent comments by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Last week, in discussing Apple's financial results for the first quarter of 2015 (the company's fiscal second quarter), Cook said that "we're seeing a higher rate of switchers than we've experienced in previous iPhone cycles," according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. However, Cook was referring to the entire global market, while Kantar's numbers cover just the US. Another report from Kantar released on Wednesday found that the iPhone 6 was prompting Android users across Europe to switch to iOS.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus currently account for 18 percent of all iPhones in the US, while the iPhone 5, 5S and 5C collectively represent 64 percent of all iPhones in use across the nation.

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