Handset makers scurry to join Year of the Phablet

Mon Jan 7, 2013 3:08am EST
 

By Jeremy Wagstaff and Lee Chyen Yee

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Call it phablet, phonelet, tweener or super smartphone, but the clunky mobile phone - closer in size to a tablet than the smartphone of a couple of years back - is here to stay.

A surprise hit of 2012, it is drawing in more users, more handset makers and is shaping the way we consume content.

"We expect 2013 to be the Year of the Phablet," said Neil Mawston, UK-based executive director of Strategy Analytics' global wireless practice.

While Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has blazed a trail with its once-mocked Galaxy Note devices, now other manufacturers are scurrying to catch up.

At this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Chinese telecommunications giants ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd will launch their own.

ZTE, which collaborated with Italy's designer Stefano Giovannoni for the Nubia phablet, is scheduled to launch its 5-inch Grand S, while Huawei brings out the Ascend Mate, sporting a whopping 6.1-inch screen, making it only slightly smaller than Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet.

"Users have realized that a nearly 5-inch screen smartphone isn't such a cumbersome device," said Joshua Flood, senior analyst at ABI Research in Britain.

Driving the phablet's shift to the mainstream is a confluence of trends. Users prefer larger screens because they are consuming more visual content on mobile devices than before, and using them less for voice calls - the phablet's weak spot.   Continued...

 
(From top to bottom) A Blackberry Bold smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy Note phablet, and an Apple iPad 2 tablet are displayed in this illustration photo in Hong Kong January 3, 2013. The shift to the mainstream by phablets -- they're likely to account for nearly 20% of all smartphones in 2013, a doubling of market share over 2012 according to ABI Research, is driven by a shift in consumer habits around the globe, as users turn to devices with larger screens but which are more portable than tablets and can also be used to make and receive phone calls. Picture taken January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip