Phablets Taking Over Market, Will Apple Cave and Follow Suit?

Carl Weinschenk
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Seven Tablets with a Business Edge

Canalys, according to InformationWeek, says that phablets are selling with “frenzied fervor.” The firm found that these devices, which are characterized by screens larger than five inches across, grew by 369 percent during the first quarter of 2014 compared to the year-ago quarter. The category represented 34 percent of smartphone shipments across the board; 39 percent of devices sold in China and 43 percent sold in Asia/Pacific were phablets.

The fact that phablets represent one of the fastest growing markets is significant.

BetaNews cited another survey that validated the category’s growing influence, and suggested that the results in China are especially significant:


In China, the world's largest smartphone market, during March, phablets accounted for 40 percent of smartphone sales, according to Kantar Worldpanel. "It’s clear that phablets really are changing the way Chinese consumers use smartphones", Dominic Sunnebo, Kantar Worldpanel analyst, says. "More than one in five phablet owners now watch mobile TV on a daily basis, half do so at least once a month, and this is without widespread availability of 4G".

Re/code looks at the differences in the way in which people use phablets and other form factors. This begs a big question: What impact will the popularity of larger devices—no doubt driven by the ascendency of mobile video—have on Apple, which may not be ready?

In the InformationWeek story, Eric Zeman suggests that changes in the ways in which people use mobile devices could spell trouble for the company:

Apple may be selling lots of expensive devices, but it has no share of the market for big-screened phones. Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone on record a number of times to say the company is more interested in providing the best experience than the biggest phone. With one-third of all smartphone sales in the 5-inch and up category, Apple may have to ditch its ideals for once and give its customers what they want.

That may be happening. In his story about the Canalys research, the Guardian’s Charles Arthur, discusses how the company’s plans may be impacted:

There are growing rumors that Apple will release a phone with a 4.7in screen later this year, and that it is testing an even larger phone with a 5.5in screen. 9to5Mac reported on Wednesday that Apple was testing an iPhone 6 with a display with a resolution of 1704x960 pixels.

The irony is that Apple purists may be disappointed that Apple appears willing to bend to reality. PCMag’s Seamus Condron said it, perhaps with a bit of snark:

So while the next iPhone Phabulous or whatever it will call it may or not be a popular addition to the Apple family, it's what we're all expecting. There probably won't be any out-of-the-box thinking present, just a bigger, possible curved screen that has no real utility. It hurts to say it, but Apple's next big iPhone will probably not signify a bold new direction for the company, but instead it will represent Apple's acknowledgement of a market correction. And how on each can you get excited about that?

So look for Apple to become even bigger with its next iPhone—in size if not in market share.



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