Blog Post

More evidence that the big phone is the new small tablet

Earlier this week, tucked into commentary in a fairly dismal earnings preview, Samsung said that “the demand for 5- to 6-inch smartphones cannibalized the demand for 7- to 8-inch tablets.” Samsung sells a lot of 5- to 6-inch smartphones, and fewer 7- to 8-inch tablets. So is this a lame excuse for what looks to be a down quarter for the Korean conglomerate, or is it a leading indicator that the small tablet market might be in trouble?

According to a report published earlier this week by research firm NPD Display Search, yes, 7- to 8-inch tablets are losing out to handsets. In 2013, smaller tablets made up 58 percent of the market. They’re cheaper, and for a lot of people, they strike the right balance between weight and screen size. But the report noted that small tablet share will likely decline in the future, due to competition from 5.5-inch and larger smartphones. Taking up the relinquished market share should be tablets between 8 and 11 inches, which the report estimates will be more common in 2018. Big tablet and PC hybrids like the Surface Pro 3 will also have a small chunk of the market by 2018.

Samsung's Galaxy W, a 7-inch smartphone
Samsung’s Galaxy W, a 7-inch smartphone

It seems as if Samsung has finally figured out what observers have been predicting for years: bigger smartphones offer a tablet-like experience with the benefits of cellular voice capabilities. I predict phones will continue to grow in size — once manufacturers and consumers give up on pocketability, there’s really no limit to how big phones can get. There are already 7-inch devices for sale in markets like Korea. And as more smartphones are sold to first-time customers in emerging markets, those devices will be their owners’ first and most likely only computers. They’ll want a big screen for watching video, plus cellular connectivity for keeping in touch.

5 Responses to “More evidence that the big phone is the new small tablet”

  1. Michael W. Perry

    Big phones replacing small tablets? Makes sense. You gotta have that phone and making it your tablet means you don’t need to carry a separate tablet.

    The ‘too many things to carry/keep charged’ syndrome is one reason why I suspect smartwatches won’t do more than moderately well.

  2. I’m tired of squinting at my iPhone 4 and would be happy to move to a 5″ smartphone – but I think there’s still a significant niche for the 7″-8″ tablet.

    I’m surprised that we haven’t seen tablets of the that size that also offer voice service. No, I don’t think too many people are going to walk around with an 8″ tablet glued to their ear, but it might be great as a speakerphone for folks who don’t have much demand for a phone.

  3. r00fus

    Sorry, that guy holding the “phone” looks very uncomfortable.

    Given the sales forecast declines, I think that Samsung is just blaming their poor sales of tablets (something they have no real compelling story compared to the iPad) on their more rational sale of phablet/large phones.

    While I’d prefer a larger phone, there is a limit to how large I’d like it – 7″ sounds crazy.

  4. fjpoblam

    Yep, as for me, why not? The fewer devices I have to fiddle with maintaining, the better. And the lighter the load for traveling. Simplicity counts, if the phone is a practical size.