The rise of the Phablet

17th Oct, 2014

Google has announced its latest smartphone this week. The Nexus 6 comes running the new Android 5.0 Lollipop, which will also be launched this week and has been highly expected since it was first revealed back in May. All features aside (and there are many of them!), what makes this new smartphone even more interesting is its size: at nearly 6 inch it’s Google’s first entrance to the Phablet market.

Phablets, which combines the words phone and tablet, is a class of mobile devices designed to combine both the functions of a smartphone and tablet. Over the last few weeks, we have seen the launch of two other phablets, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the new iPhone 6+.

This new wave of phablets might come as a surprise to many, given they are usually regarded as too big and bulky. However if we think back to not too long ago, when Tablets were first introduced to the market back in 2007, we have seen similar responses: why would I need a Tablet if I can do the same thing on a Laptop?  Was one of the main arguments used to dismiss them altogether. It was not until Apple introduced the first iPad in 2010 that initial take up rose, others soon followed, and it was not long until tablets were considered the ‘Next big thing’. At the same time, this then saw the decline in PC sales and Gartner predicts that by next year tablet sales to overtake PC sales by 320 million tablet sales versus just 316 million PC sales (both desktop and laptops).

According to research from Deloitte, phablets are growing 10% faster than the rest of the smartphone market and sales rates are now 10 times higher than they were only two years ago. One the one hand we see tablets becoming smaller and smaller, whilst smartphones are becoming larger and larger. As smartphones become increasingly sophisticated, it becomes harder and harder to justify carrying around more than one device which, at the end of the day, can be substituted by just one.

At the same time, consumers value simplicity and devices that ultimately make our lives easier. We are already beginning to see signs that the smartphone of today may well become the killer device, or remote control, in an increasingly smart and inter-connected intelligent home setting.

And already, the phablet triumphs in the urban commuter setting, the ability to multi-task and the larger screens are becoming essential to internet browsing. This will be of particular interest in the near future, as mobile is gaining popularity as the main device for accessing the internet. A third of all mobile users in the UK now say they buy things via their phone (33% vs. 23% in 2012) according to the latest Ofcom Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report.

Currently, tablets have overtaken PCs and laptops as the preferred device for accessing the internet, with mobile having the sharpest increase compared to last year. The other factor to consider is that the tablet market is predicted to slow down, as it reaches saturation, as well as predominantly being used in-home, as consumers value greater portability offered by smaller devices like phablets.

Whilst multi-computing  is a huge selling point for the developed  market, in the emerging markets these hybrid devices may allow its users to save money and satisfy their multi-purpose needs, especially in a setting where many people skipped PC and went straight to mobile.