‘Fastest Growing’ mobile device? That Means Nothing!

I just read an article on Flurry about Phablets being the fastest growing device type. Phablet usage grew a seemingly impressive 148% in one year. (You can read the article here)

But is it really that impressive? Should we all now rush to create apps specifically for phablets?

blog_fastestgrowingI like phablets. I am NOT comparing them to cockroaches in this comic.

Fastest Growing means nothing

Growth is measured in percentage, relative to your current size. Which means, the smaller you are, the easier it is for you to have incredibly large growth numbers.

Imagine a bored farmer starting a company to make cellphones. In the first year he makes one for himself. Then he sells one to his mother and one to his neighbor in his second year. Thus he has grown his sales by 100%. Sounds impressive, right?
(Explanation: He sold one in the first, and two in the second year.)

On the other side: If Apple, which has sold roughly 170 million iPhones in 2014 (Source here), now sold 171 million iPhones in the next year – a whopping 1 million more devices! – it would only make iPhone sales grow by 0.006%. Simply because the number was already that high.

Clearly, the farmer has the faster growing product.
But, does that mean anything? Or at least, does it mean anything good? Is a total of three devices something to celebrate?

Which company would you rather invest your money in?
What cellphone operating system would you spend your time and money developing exclusive content for?

(Of course I wish the best of luck to the farmer in his endeavors!)

Small growth can be more impressive

Growth alone doesn’t mean much. But that changes when you provide surrounding data, ideally in the form of some absolute numbers.

If you grow your company size by 10% and had 1000 employees before – congratulations! You just created 100 new jobs!.
If you increase the amount of money you give to charity each year by 100%, and you gave $3 before… not much to celebrate here.

I am getting tired of reading ‘fastest growing’ everywhere as if it was somehow impressive all by itself. If anything, big growth usually means that whatever is growing so fast is currently really quite small.

It’s the small growth numbers that are often way more interesting. Something that is already big and still manages to grow 5%-10%? Now that is actually impressive.

And if something claims to be the fastest growing industry/company/religion/tech/whatever, but then doesn’t provide any real hard numbers, things start smelling fishy.

Here is a comic by XKCD that pretty much hits it on the spot:

Back to Phablets

Don’t get me wrong – I like Flurry’s insights articles a lot. And the core of the information is perfectly fine and interesting. More and more Phablets are being bought and used. They are probably here to stay and will become a permanent and relevant part of the mobile device market.

Unfortunately the article doesn’t list any absolute numbers on how many phablets are out there, how often a day they are being used and so on. It just states that their usage is growing faster than that of iPhones in the same period. Which means nothing. Even without knowing the exact numbers I can tell that there must be a multiple times the amount of iPhones out there than phablets. That makes it hard to judge how important phablets really already are.

From a developer standpoint it probably doesn’t matter much. Phablets are in between phones and tablets in screen size, so they’ll run all apps from these two markets just fine. No need to target phablets specifically.
There’s already apps for that.

Summing it all up, I’m really just ranting.
My point: Beware when something claims to be the ‘fastest growing’ in its field.

Disclaimer

I mentioned Apple and iPhones in this article. This was purely for making a point. Neither do I promote buying Apple products, nor do I discourage from it.

Fun fact:
Did you know that Apple actually trademarked the phrase “There’s an app for that”?

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