Handset makers scurry to join Year of the Phablet

Phablet

But that's the point, some say. "I think phone size was a preconceived notion based on voice usage," said John Berns, a Singapore-based executive who works in the information technology industry. He recently upgraded his Note for the newer Note 2 and bought another for his girlfriend for Christmas. "Smaller was better until phones got smart, became visual."

The Asia-Pacific is, and will remain, the world's biggest market for phablets, says ABI's Flood. Last year, the region absorbed 42 percent of global shipments, a proportion that will expand steadily over the next few years to account for over 50

percent of shipments by 2017, according to ABI figures.

"Countries like Japan and South Korea will be major markets for phablets," Flood said, adding that China, India and Malaysia would see increasing demand for larger screen devices as they roll out 4G networks extensively.

Samsung has been both the engine and beneficiary. While other players shipped devices with larger screens earlier Dell Inc launched its Streak in 2010 it was only when the Korean behemoth launched the Galaxy Note in late 2011, with its 5.3-inch screen, that users took an interest.

"The Streak was launched at a time when 3-inch smartphones were standard and the leap to a 5-inch Streak was a jump too far for consumers," says Strategy Analytics' Mawston.

"The Galaxy Note was launched when 4-inch smartphones had become commonplace, and the leap to 5-inch was no longer such a chasm."

THE BIGGER, THE BETTER

Since then Samsung has bet big on bigger: its updated Note has a 5.5-inch screen and its flagship Galaxy S3 the best-selling smartphone in the third quarter of 2012 has a screen that puts it in the phablet category for some analysts. Samsung accounted for around three quarters of all phablets shipped last year, according to Barclays' Taipei-based analyst Dale Gai.

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