Samsung dazzles phablet followers with more girth, size
By Miyoung Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is seeking to dazzle followers of the phablet with bigger screens, and even possibly with a curved one, in its attempt to fence off a segment of smartphones once mocked for their girth and size.
Phablets, a cross between a phone and a tablet, have been on a roll since late 2011 as tech-savvy consumers, particularly in Asia, devote more time browsing data-heavy Web pages and downloading media content. Even Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone, released in April this year, has a 5-inch screen that puts it squarely in the phablet category for some analysts.
On Wednesday, Samsung kicked off global sales of its latest Galaxy Note 3 smartphone in Seoul. The phablet, which boasts a 5.7-inch screen and costs $990 in South Korea without a carrier contract, will be available in 140 nations by October.
Analysts say the medium-term outlook for phablets is good, but price points and the lure of their smaller, more portable cousins will keep a lid on consumer enthusiasm.
Canalys expects smartphones with 5.1-6 inch screens to make up 6 percent of the market in 2013. The Singapore-based research firm is estimating overall global shipments of 993 million smartphones this year.
"We're certainly seeing a shift for large-screen phones, but the vast majority of volumes are sub-5-inch - over 90 percent," said Rachel Lashford, an analyst at Canalys. "We would need to see devices at lower price points and from a much wider range of vendors, including Apple, to go beyond these forecasts."
The growing popularity of phablets has galvanized Western names into action.
Google's Motorola unit recently launched a 5-inch Droid Ultra, and even Apple Inc, which has stuck to a 3.5-inch form factor for its iPhone since 2007 debut, is also exploring offering iPhones with larger screens, four people with knowledge of the matter said previously. Continued...