“Phablet, n.: a smartphone having a screen which is intermediate in size between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer.”
That is how Oxford Dictionary describes this newly added word in its dictionary. It is surprising to see a word which was not even formed three years back has been added by one of the world’s most referred dictionaries in its online database. However, this surprise changes to intriguing when we track the growth of phablets in such a short period of time. What’s more interesting is to know that, at the time when we’re talking about laptop sales slowing down against tablets, the phablets are growing even faster than phones and tablets. According to International Data Corporation (IDC) Quarterly report for 2nd Quarter of 2013, the phablets category grew 17% in contrast to last year and its overall share in the market is now 30%.
According to the definition, the phablets have a screen size between 5 inches and 6.99 inches. But, this shouldn’t be only criteria to determine a phablet, as its actual work is to serve the tasks of both phone and a tablet.
The humble beginnings
While one may argue about the actual origin of phablets. Commercially it was the Dell Streak launched in 2010 which could be considered as the first experiment for large screen devices. It has 5 inches of screen, which at that time was very massive and ran on Android OS. Sadly, the device failed badly in the market due to poor marketing and Android not being compatible with large screen devices.
Then in 2011, Korean giant Samsung tried its hands on large screen format with the Galaxy Note launched at IFA, Berlin in September. The device was ludicrous for its grand display of 5.3 inches. Most of the tech community was laughing at this absurd device from Samsung. But, be it Samsung’s marketing or consumers interested in large screen devices, the Note went on to garner huge sales. It propelled the term phablet and consumers liked the idea of having one device which can be used not just as a phone, but for multimedia purposes and gaming. Another reason for the Note to work was the stylus called as S-Pen as it gave people the freedom to unleash their creativity anytime and anywhere.
The Rapid Rise
After the Note, there was no looking back for Samsung. Several others like LG with its Vu series, Asus with Fonepad also tried this format, but they couldn’t match the masterstroke by Samsung. The company went on to build the whole Note category, which currently in its 3rd iteration- Note 3 remains as powerful as it can be. Other global companies also jumped in to the fray including Sony with its Xperia Z Ultra phablet with giant screen of 6.44 inches, LG with its G Pro, and more. Samsung also went on to create another series called as Mega which even introduced even larger screen size than the Note series, but it was targeted at budget conscious consumers with decent specifications.
In a price sensitive markets like India, local manufacturers took the challenge to bring the phablets in good prices. Micromax, Karbonn, Intex, etc. introduced large screen devices with awesome configuration at the mid-range segment, which boosted the sales of phablets further.
Rumors suggest that many other companies like Nokia with its Lumia 1520 and Apple would also be offering devices in this category.
Will phones eventually become phablets and small size tablets go out of Market?
This is perhaps the most important question for this discussion. We’ve seen how phablets began and generated lots of sales. But, will it remain just a fad or an actual category? More importantly, between phones, phablets and tablets, which one should a consumer go for?
Let’s talk about phone and phablets first. “Bigger is always better” has been a quote all of us have followed in various aspects of our life. Same remains correct for the fast growth of phablets and hence people would prefer to buy it rather than small screen phone. But, still there would be a large chunk of people who’re comfortable with small screen devices due to their portability and ease of handling. This means, even if phablets will gain huge market share, the phones won’t go away; instead they would start packing better configuration to attract buyers.
The second question is a tricky one as phablets and tablets have quite different user base. While the phablet is for those who want a phone, which can also double up as entertainment and multimedia device. On the other hand, tablet is for those who want out and out work and multimedia device. Further, phablets can still be carried in pockets and can be used with one hand (through software customization of one hand operation), whereas tablets have to be kept in bags or purses and more often than not require two hands usage. The screen size of phablet is between 5-6.99 inches while, for tablets, it varies between 7 inches to 11 inches. So, if we look closely it seems either tablets would be purchased by those who specifically have such usage or people would only buy large screen tablets. This is because, the phablet with a screen size of around 6 inches can be easily carried and also serve the purpose of a tablet with 7 inch screen size. Hence, we think that in the future phablets will replace small screen tablets.
What do you think? Will tablets remain in the market in the coming years?