Phablets Invade Traditional Tablet Territory

by Matt Klassen on May 30, 2014

If there’s one ironclad truth of the mobile market that has emerged over the past several years it’s that mobile users, enterprise and consumer alike, only want to carry one device. It’s a reality that toppled Blackberry, as the BYOD movement allowed business users to shed their dedicated business phone in favour of their favourite consumer device, and it looks like such a desire to shrink one’s technological toolkit is about to hit the tablet market as well.

According to market analysis firm IDC, worldwide tablet sales are going to take a significant hit this year, as the company adjusted its sales prediction for the year to 245.4 million units, down from its initial estimate of 260.9 million. This latest market forecast does not bode well for tablets, as it would mean that 2014 tablet sales would grow a meagre 12 percent over last year, compared with 51.8 percent in 2013.

IDC points to two key factors behind the apparent stagnation of the tablet market: consumers holding on to their tablet devices longer and increased competition from other associated mobile devices, particularly as larger-screen smartphones, aka phablets, become the latest one-stop communication platform.

I’ll admit that when phablets first hit the scene I boldly predicated that such over-sized hybrid technology would have no staying power in the mobile market, as I simply couldn’t understand why mobile users would want a phone that obscured half their face and was about as portable as a brick. While I lambasted the Dell Streak when it first hit the market several years ago, I now humbly acknowledge that this device, despite its drawbacks, was truly a pioneer.

Of course my confusion stemmed from my antiquated understanding of how people communicate, as I assumed people were still doing most of their communicated via voice, while the reality is that most people now communicated predominantly through data and text. Within such a paradigm a one-stop hybrid device does indeed seem to be the best choice, particularly for the casual user.

“The rise of phablets — smartphones with 5.5-inch and larger screens — are causing many people to second-guess tablet purchases as the larger screens as these phones are often adequate for tasks once reserved for tablets,” Tom Mainelli, program vice president for Devices & Displays at IDC, said in a statement.

As evidence of this increased interest in phablets, that is smartphones with a screen over 5.5 inches, the phablet share of all smartphones shipped more than doubled to 10.5 percent over 4.3 the same time last year. Further, tablet sales dropped 5 percent in the first quarter of this year, with IDC again attributing the dip to growing interest in large-screen smartphones.

If slower device turnover and pressure from associated tech sectors sounds like a familiar recipe for disaster, it’s effectively the same factors that attributed to the decline of the PC market. But that’s not to say that the tablet market is dead, only that it is about the change, as clearly there is a desire for hybrid devices, meaning smartphones will increase in size to occupy the traditional tablet space, and tablets will increase in size as well, much like Microsoft’s new Surface 3 Pro, occupying the traditional laptop space.

While I will admit that this trend of technology getting bigger seems counter-intuitive (I thought advanced technology was supposed to be small!) for now, at least, larger hybrid mobile solutions seem to be the way the winds of change are blowing.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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