News & Views
Phablet phenomenon takes East Asia by storm

With smartphones continuing to edge traditional single-use devices like cameras and mp3 players out of the market, and tablets like the iPad and Nexus basking in the afterglow of a pretty successful Christmas sales period, one question remains: what’s next?

The answer is more of the same – sort of. As smartphone screens have got bigger (like that of the Samsung Galaxy S III) and tablet screens have got more compact (like the recent iPad mini), a logical and natural assumption would be that the two products will eventually meet each other somewhere in the middle. The result is a combination of the design and functionality of smartphones and tablets, nicknamed rather imaginatively, “phablets”.

Despite their rather cumbersome size for regular use as a phone (and an even clumsier moniker), “phablets” are proving to be big business. In a poll at Yahoo! Indonesia, almost 5,000 users selected the Samsung Galaxy Note II as their phone of choice in 2012, even over the highly anticipated iPhone 5. Barclays estimates that the phablet market has the potential to quadruple in value to $135BN in the next three years, largely thanks to interest in East Asia.

Speaking to The Guardian this month, Joshua Flood, a senior analyst at ABI Research predicted that “countries like Japan and South Korea will be major markets for phablets,” in addition to China, India and Malaysia, where demand will grow as 4G networks are rolled out more widely this year. Flood confirmed that the Asia-Pacific region currently holds the title of world’s biggest phablet market, having absorbed 42% of global shipments to date. Analysts at ABI Research envision that East Asia will account for more than 50% of shipments by 2017.

Chinese manufacturer Huawei have just unveiled its new phablet model, the Android-powered Ascend Mate, which features a 6.1 inch screen, making it even bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note II. While the term “phablet” is curiously absent from press releases, marketers at Huawei are keen to make the handset’s large screen a selling point.

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, stated that “The HUAWEI Ascend Mate breaks barriers to deliver a supercharged entertainment, communication and creative experience for all your personal and professional needs. The HUAWEI Ascend Mate is an industry-leading smartphone and showcases our innovation as we continue to make great technology available to more people globally.” The Ascend Mate will hit the Chinese market in February, although release dates for other regions remain something of a mystery.

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