The emerging device category of "phablets," or devices that are larger in size than smartphones but smaller than tablets (generally with a 5-inch screen), will hit its stride over the next few years, reaching 208 million units in 2015, according to a forecast from ABI Research.
Samsung Galaxy Note
Currently, the most high-profile phablet is Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Note, which sports a 5-3-inch screen. Samsung, which markets the device as having the best features of both a smartphone and a tablet, said in late March it had sold 5 million units of the device. The Galaxy Note went on sale last fall and is currently available in the United States via AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), which sells the LTE-capable device for $250 with a two-year contract.
Likely because of Samsung's success, other handset makers appear poised to jump into the phablet market later this year, including HTC, Huawei and LG Electronics. ABI defines phablets as devices with a touchscreen size between 4.6 and 5.5 inches. The research firm predicts that global shipments of phablets will increase by a factor of 10 in 2012 from 2011.
"One of the chief drivers for phablets is the amount of time people use their smartphones for web browsing, reading articles and newspapers on the go, or simply navigating their journeys," ABI analyst Joshua Flood said in a statement. "The larger screen sizes make a significant difference to the user's experience when compared to conventional-sized touchscreens between 3.5 to 4 inches." Additionally, new phablet-styled devices provide an attractive two-in-one device proposition and are beginning to see the competition between these larger smartphone form factors and smaller media tablets (less than 7 inches)."
As LTE networks proliferate, phablets are also likely to find favor with consumers who may want to view HD and other multimedia content on large screens but who might balk at buying a more expensive tablet. The chief drawback to phablets at this point is that they are somewhat ungainly to hold because of their in-between size.
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