Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Are Phablets Signaling a Butterfly Effect for Mobile Devices? By Ken Kaplan, Intel iQ Managing Editor

Maybe they’re just small tweaks to make bigger smartphones or smaller tablets, but the rising popularity of phablets could lead to a faster global shift to more always-connected touchscreen computing devices.

They may not agree on whether these things are more like a big smartphone or a small tablet, but experts are in sync about the big splash phablets will make at next month’s Computex event in Taipei, Taiwan.
Some even see increasing demand for phablets not only impacting how tablets and phones will evolve but also how people are using mobile devices, particularly people around the world who are buying phablets as their first Internet device.
These hybrid mobile devices typically come with screens that are only five to seven inches diagonally across, just like the Asus FonePad 7 and the Asus Zenfone 6, both priced affordably in the $200-250USD range.
Last year, 20 million of the 980 million smartphones shipped globally were considered phablets, and according to Juniper Research that is expected to grow to 120 million phablets by 2018. On the higher side, Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes believes that by 2015 sales of phablets will grow to 230 million units.
“What we’re seeing with Phablets is less a new distinct category and more the emergence of a single continuum that starts at 3.5-inch and moves up to 10-inch plus tablets,” said  Geoff Blabervice president of research at CCS Insight, in an interview earlier in the year. By that he is referring to mobile touchscreen devices with built in 3G and LTE communications capabilities.
“The fascinating part is the widely different distribution characteristics between smartphones, phablets and tablets. That has big implications for everyone in the value chain.”
Blaber expects 5.5-inch to 6.9-inch devices to account for 10% of global smartphone shipments by end 2015.
“Bigger screens are becoming essential for browsing,” Tim Coulling, a senior analyst at Canalys said, in a recent interview with The Guardian.
“They make it a lot more attractive – you can fit more information into a single screen. Media consumption is becoming more and more important. That requires a larger screen. Email gets easier on a big screen too.”
Common in a handful of recent interviews with tech industry insiders was the notion that phablets may seem like a hybrid or simple fusion of phone and tablet, but their growing popularity could result in significant changes both for device makers and people using them as their first real computing device.

Sales of phablets today may seem like a trickle compared with smartphone and tablet sales, but it could be akin to the “butterfly effect,” a method for predicting hurricanes based on how distant a butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks earlier.

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