Smartphones and tablets - yes, tablets - remain popular gifts and the Christmas holiday season is always a good indicator of who is on top. Flurry Analytics tracks device activations in the week leading up to Christmas day and for 2016, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL ) was firmly on top, more than doubling rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (OTCMKTS: SSNLF ).
Source: Flurry Analytics
Surprisingly, Alphabet Inc.'s (NASDAQ: GOOG , NASDAQ: GOOGL ) Google Pixel Phone failed to crack the list of most gifted mobile devices. And phablets continued their march toward being the most dominant form factor.
The iPhone Was the Most Popular This Christmas, But …
According to the numbers published by Flurry Analytics , 44% of new device activations in the week leading up to Christmas (and the start of Chanukah), were from Apple. In comparison, Samsung took 21% - which was up 1% over last year. Rounding out the top three was China's Huawei Culture Co Ltd , which captured a 3% share.
More than doubling the nearest competition sounds great for Apple, but when you look at Flurry's 2015 numbers , Apple devices were at 49.1% and Samsung was at 19.8%. Third place - with 2% of activations - was Nokia Corp (ADR) (NYSE: NOK ).
So, despite the public embarrassment of the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, Samsung still managed to pull itself up a percentage point in popularity. Apple, meanwhile, slipped five points and Chinese smartphone makers have begun to make an appearance as holiday gifts.
It's worth noting that while Flurry doesn't specifically note whether the activation data it is tracking is U.S. or international, it does spike out app installs as being specifically for the U.S. only - suggesting the activation data is worldwide.
Where Was the Google Pixel?
Seeing the iPhone as the most popular smartphone as a Christmas gift is not a surprise. Nor is it a shock that Samsung took second place. What is surprising, though, is the absence of Google's Pixel Phone. It's not only absent in the top three mobile device activations, it's missing from the chart altogether.
There were expectations that the Google Pixel Phone was going to be a strong challenger, though becoming the most popular smartphone in its first year of availability wasn't likely to be in the cards. But with glowing reviews, the best possible Android experience, exclusive features and a massive marketing push by Google - combined with Samsung's stumble - the Pixel Phone was expected to be a hit.
Quarterly sales numbers may end up saying differently, but the Pixel Phone seems to have bombed as a Christmas gift.
Also notable in the Flurry data was the continuing popularity of phablets. These phones with 5-inch (or more) displays took 37% of device activations, up from 27% last year.
Almost all of that increase came at the expense of medium-sized phones (like the iPhone SE), which shrank from 54% to 45%. Tablets represented 17% of activations in the 2016 holiday season, compared to 18% in 2015. Also, the tablet gifting was the reason why Amazon.com, Inc . (NASDAQ: AMZN ) took fourth place on the overall activation chart.
The Main Takeaway: AAPL and Samsung Are Both Winners
According to Flurry's data, Apple dominated Christmas when it comes to gifting of smartphones and tablets. More than doubling your closest competition is a pretty good position to be in.
However, the company feeling the best after looking at this has to be Samsung. It didn't have the most popular smartphone under Christmas trees, but despite a horrible year when it suffered a public black eye that caused real concern for the company's reputation, it still managed to notch a small gain in popularity. And this with the threat of Google coming after it, guns blazing, with the new Pixel Phone.
Clearly, consumers didn't feel that giving someone a Samsung smartphone or tablet was a faux pas, and that is a positive sign for Samsung going into 2017.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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