“Phablet” smartphones with large screens will see rising demand in the Far East over the next five years, says a new report – though data from Europe suggests their appeal here is limited.
According to Juniper Research, phablet sales (which it defines as having a screen of between 5.6in and 6.9in measured diagonally) will hit 120m annually in 2018, compared to just 20m this year.
Around half of those – 60m – will be bought in the Far East and China, the company forecasts, while about 20m will be sold in North America and 20m in Europe, it forecasts.
Juniper’s definition of a “phablet” describes a larger screen than most research companies, which define it as a smartphone with a screen measuring 5in or more diagonally. That includes devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy S4, released last April, and its Note 3, released in September, and HTC’s One Max, released in autumn.
Juniper says “phablets will easily find seed demographics, such as gamers in South Korea or streamers in China, allowing vendors to establish a large enough consumer base to benefit from economies of scale.”
Phablets’ appeal: how big?
But data collected by Kantar ComTech from its panel of 56,000 smartphone buyers in Europe suggests that phablet screens are too big for a significant number of those who buy them – who then “scale down” to smaller screens.
According to Kantar’s data, which covers the whole of 2013, 42% of people who bought a phablet – which it defines as a screen over 5in, slightly smaller than Juniper’s definition – subsequently bought a smaller screen size.
In fact, Kantar says it has identified a trend for smartphone buyers to swap between four sizes of screens:
- those less than 2.9in (roughly equivalent to an older BlackBerry)
- 3in to 3.9in (a size range that includes the iPhone 4)
- 4in to 4.4in (such as the iPhone 5 and Sony Xperia Z1 Compact)
- 4.5 to 4.9in (such as the Moto X, HTC One and – on Kantar’s definition – Samsung Galaxy S4)
- 5in and above (such as the HTC One Max and Samsung Galaxy Note range).
But it found that there is a cycle of swapping between them:
- 88% of sub-2.9in owners move to a larger size;
- 68% of 3.0-3.9in [iPhone 4-size] owners move to a larger size (only 1% move down)
- 56% of 4.0-4.4in [iPhone 5, Xperia Z1 Compact] owners move to a larger size (13% move down)
- 41% of 4.5-4.9in owners [HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4] move to a larger size
- among phablet owners, 58% remain but 42% downgrade to a smaller size.
Kantar carries out its study by continual interviews of the same panel of people, so that it knows what their buying decisions are, and how they change.
“In general, more consumers upgrade to a larger device each time they change, rather than buying the same size or downsizing,” says Dominic Sunnebo, global insight director at Kantar ComTech. “However, this changes pretty quickly when you look at consumers upgrading from 5″+ devices (Phablets) – 42% of these switched to a smaller device (mostly 4.5″-4.9″).”
Sunnebo says that in Europe, people almost always move between device sizes by simply switching to the next size up or down. “In Europe there’s far, far less interest in phablets, so manufacturers find it a struggle to push them over here, compared to Asia where they are a big thing. The difference is that tablets took off a lot earlier in the US and Europe – in the UK, tablet penetration is close to 40% of households.”
By contrast growth in tablet sales of all sizes in Asia has been more recent. “When finances are under pressure there, then a phablet is the preference” – because its large screen means it can serve the purposes of both a phone and a small tablet.
Kantar defines Samsung’s Galaxy S4 as a sub-5in screen, rather than a “phablet”, because “it’s practically the same size body as the Galaxy S3 [from 2012]. That makes it difficult to classify.”
He added: “There are strong rumours Samsung is bringing out a smaller version of the Note III which speaks volumes about its performance to date – this essentially just brings the Note 3 closer and closer to the Galaxy S4 (and soon to be S5), and therefore loses its USP [unique selling point], which is mainly simply its size.”
Using the data from Kantar, one can run a simulation that suggests how phone screen size ownership might migrate among the population. Note that it’s subject to these criteria (and cautions):
- it assumes that the ratio of upgrades/stayers/downgraders remains the same
- the iteration rounds each time to an integer value so it more quickly approaches a limit
- if this were carried out on two-year smartphone contracts, it would take more than 20 years to occur.
But it may give a broader picture of trends in the smartphone market.
Assuming that you start with everyone owning a sub-2.9in phone:
In this scenario, phablets end up with 38% of the market – and the range from 4.0-4.9in with a total of 60%. The 3.5in size is left with 2%.
Note that this modelling has another key assumption: that some people cycle back and forth between owning phones of larger and smaller sizes. If one were to use a “marking” system, where those who have traded up or down and then returned to a particular size remain with that screen size, you’d get a different result.
With rumours that Samsung’s Galaxy S5 will have a 5.25in screen, and similar rumours that Apple is working on a 4.7in (and even 5.7in) iPhone, the appeal of larger screens – and phablets – is likely to be tested in 2014.
- Asia and Europe meet in Milan
- Conflict with Europe limits Russians' last hope for justice
- EU Pushes Plan to Make Life Easier for Europe's Inventors
- Climate change could make South Asia too hot for human survival by 2100
- US appeals court limits scope of Trump's travel ban
- Around the world in 125 years: Images give stunning glimpse of life in bygone Asia and Europe
- Lucy Watson swaps Knightsbridge for Barbados to make splash with boyfriend James Dunmore
- Airbus dominates Paris Airshow, but upstarts make splash
- Brazil's Rousseff makes 11th-hour appeal to stop impeachment
- High Tobacco Prices Make Illegal Cigarettes Appealing
- Kong set to make splash in WWE
- 'Islamic State' poses 'serious threat' to Asia's Muslim countries