Is 2013 the year of the phablet? IHS forecast says shipments will more than double

17 Jan 2013

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Huawei Ascend Mate. Image via weibo.com

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‘Phablet’ is quick becoming the moniker for smartphones with large displays of 5 inches or more (think somewhere between a phone and a tablet). Having seen a number of these devices fighting for the spotlight at International CES earlier this month, information and analytics provider IHS has forecast huge sales for phablets in the coming years.

There was no shortage of 5-inch and above displays at CES 2013. Huawei’s Ascend Mate was by far the biggest of the lot – and is perhaps the world’s largest smartphone – with a 6.1-inch HD display of 361 ppi (for some perspective, the Retina display of the iPhone features a resolution of 326 ppi). The Chinese manufacturer also had the smaller but still phablet-sized Ascend D2, sporting a 5-inch 443 ppi display, while rival ZTE matched this with the 5-inch Grand S, which is said to be the world’s thinnest quad-care smartphone at 6.9mm thick.

As well as these, we had more 5-inch handsets in the form of the Alcatel One Touch Scribe HD from TCL, the IdeaPhone K5 from Lenovo and, of course, Sony’s Xperia Z. Lenovo also had a 5.5-inch model on show – the Intel-powered K900 with a full-HD 400 ppi display.

The popularity of phablets, such as the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note II in 2012, showed that these devices are no small contenders. As well as higher-resolution displays, phablets offer increased screen size for improved viewing of content, as well as more space to get things done, all packed into an ultra-portable device.

“With consumers demanding more life-like viewing experiences, the trend to offer such devices makes perfect sense, especially considering the increase in rich content that is being made available on smartphones,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director of small and medium displays at IHS iSuppli.

The IHS iSuppli Mobile Handset Displays market tracker report forecasts that phablet shipments will reach 60.4m units in 2013 – which would mark a 136pc increase on 25.6m shipped last year. By 2016, shipments could reach 146m.

iHS iSuppli Mobile Handset Displays market forecast

This expected growth is driven by the expansion in capacity related to low-temperature polysilicon liquid crystal displays (LTPS LCDs) and the reduction in cost for large-size, high-resolution smartphone displays.

IHS also believes that sales of 7-inch tablets will increase 46pc to 81.5m units shipped in 2013 as low-cost alternatives to the iPad mini become widely available.

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Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com