2015: A Phabulous Year for Phablets

Carl Weinschenk
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5 Mobile Development Trends for 2016

It is understandable to see significant ebb and flow in the mobile sector as technology evolves and tastes change. The latest trend is that one of the subgroups – the one with the odd nickname of phablets – is making a move.

Last week, InformationWeek reported on an IDC study that found that the phablet (phone-tablet) percentage of handset sales worldwide will increase from roughly 20 percent now to about 33 percent in 2020. The reason for the popularity of phablets is that, according to Anthony Scarsella, research manager of IDC’s mobile phones team, consumers “are still migrating upstream with regard to device size.”

At one point, the goal of phone makers was to make devices as small as possible. The advent of mobile video gradually reversed that trend. The change had an important side benefit for the ecosystem: The move to larger phones made it possible to enlarge batteries. This helped moderate on-device power shortages.

IDC is not the only firm noting the worldwide growth of interest in phablets. Last month, Adobe Digital Index’s report on mobile trends in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) suggested the same thing. It said that mobile growth is expanding, but tablet growth is decreasing. The beneficiary is the phablet category, according to the story on the study at CMO:

What’s most interesting, according to ADI’s report, is that smartphones are not only being used more to access the Web, they are actually being used differently than in the past. ADI hypothesizes that the release of larger-screen devices, such as the iPhone 6S, is behind this shift in consumption. The larger screens are turning smartphones into both “lean back” and “lean forward” devices, according to ADI.

The story is the same in Russia. Telecom Paper says that an item at the Russian language site Comnews.ru reported that retailer Euroset found that 7.5 million phablets were sold last year in Russia. That is an increase of 2.7 million compared to 2014. Tablet sales declined from 9.4 million to 6.1 million during the same period. Revenue totals rose and fell, respectively. Thus, phablet sales overtook tablet sales during the year.

Content creators must react to this development. At Yahoo’s Mobile Developers Conference last month, Paste Magazine reported that Senior Vice President of Publishing Products Simon Khalaf said that mobile represented an increasing percentage of Yahoo’s revenues, with phablets driving this growth. The challenge to Yahoo and other companies is creating content that is compelling on devices with much more real estate to fill.

The trend line is toward the space above a smartphone and below a tablet. It’s a phabulous time to be in the phablet business.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 11, 2016 8:32 PM David David  says:
Coming from a Motorola brick in the early 90's, I've lived through the progression of big to small and now big again. For practicality in day to day business use I can't see using anything bigger than 5.5". That said I'm patiently waiting for my S7! I tried a Nexus phablet and it was just to big for on the go conversing. Reply

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