Stretch your pockets: 150M “phablet” sales expected in 2013

Over the air digital TV on Galaxy Note 2

I hate the term “phablet” but I do like those large smartphones. ABI Research suspects that many others will too. The research firm noted on Tuesday that it expects 150 million such devices to be sold this year, accounting for 18 percent of all smartphone sales.

So what’s causing the so called avalanche of phablets? ABI agrees with something I wrote in early 2011, when I suggested that the improved media experience on a larger display would increase demand for bigger phones and called for a 4-inch iPhone. Here’s how ABI explains it:

“In short, people are watching a greater number of videos, reading more digital content (be it newspaper subscriptions or general Internet browsing), and playing more games on their smartphones. A larger screen enhances these user experiences, making the small increase in device dimensions worthwhile.

Obviously, I agree with ABI’s commentary there, but I take issue with their definition of what constitutes a phablet. The firm is including any smartphone that has a display size between 4.6- and 6.5-inches. That means the Samsung Galaxy S III would be counted as well as a number of other current smartphones.

Galaxy Note 2 unboxedI’d place the bottom limit at or above 5-inches for this market because at that point, it’s nearly mandatory for all to use the device with two hands. My Galaxy Note 2 is good example. Regardless of the definition debate, I’m now keen to see if another related early prediction I made will come to fruition.

Last year I said that small tablets would actually replace smartphones. Clearly, the lines between such devices are beginning to blend even more. And you can’t easily fit a small tablet in your pocket the way you can a smartphone. But once we move voice functionality to LTE networks and add that capability to tablets, I think we’ll see a migration to relying more on a 7-inch or so slate instead of a smaller smartphone. Either that or the phablet is the outcome of my vision, although I want no credit for the silly name.

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