The phablet is here to stay, according to an ABI analyst; the devices will soon start eating into the tablet market and, by 2018, account for 25 percent of smartphone sales.
It would seem that bigger is better as far as smartphones are concerned, and that ‘big' is here to stay. All of the major smartphone launches at this year's Consumer Electronics Show were handsets with oversized screens (that is, 4.8 inches or greater) and this trend is expected to continue throughout 2013 and be a defining theme of February's Mobile World Congress, as more and more of the industry's most important phone manufacturers decide to supersize their next device.
Joshua Flood, senior analyst, Devices, Applications and Content for ABI, believes that the market for ‘phablets' has been created by Samsung, but he points to the Galaxy SIII as the nascence of the trend and not the brand's now-infamous Galaxy Note II 5.5-inch phablet phone. "Over the course of 2012, consumer perceptions have changed. In my opinion, one of the biggest influencers was the release of Samsung's Galaxy SIII smartphone. This device had a significant 4.8-inch touchscreen. Using the Galaxy SIII made people realize that a larger device would be less cumbersome to handle and add significantly to the user experience of the device," he says in a blogpost.
As a result, ABI is predicting a phablet "avalanche" because users are increasingly using their smartphones for games, watching videos and reading news -- activities that benefit from larger screens.
ABI Research projected that almost 83 million phablets were shipped in 2012, an increase of 4,504 percent from 2011. And while a large portion of these shipments can be attributed to the Samsung Galaxy SIII, due to ABI's definition of what constitutes a phablet, the firm is forecasting that more than 150 million phablets will be shipped in 2013 -- 18 percent of all smartphone shipments. However ABI also believes that the majority of phablets shipped (almost 80%) will boast a screen size of between 4.6 and 5 inches rather than the monster 5.5-inch and 6.1 inch displays found on the Samsung Galaxy Note II and Huawei Ascend Mate respectively. Phablet sales are expected to grow conservatively from 2014 onwards and, by 2018, providing the definition of a phablet hasn't changed again, will represent 25 percent of global smartphone shipments.
Flood believes that this growing market share will soon start to impact on tablet sales. "In one-to-two years, consumers will be making a trade-off between a phablet, eg: Samsung's latest Galaxy Note, and a smaller media tablet, eg: Google's Nexus 7 or Amazon's Kindle Fire. An interesting question is when Apple will join the phablet party. I think we will see something late 2013."