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Phablets v Tablets: Is There A Market Reversal Coming?

One of the great things about living in New Zealand is that the country is a fair bell weather for what happens globally. The country is used as a test market for all sorts of new products - technical and non-technical - and as a result it's probably fair to say that buying trends that sweep New Zealand will likely follow worldwide.

So it's interesting to see more and more large phablets making their way into consumers hands here. Not the 5" screened devices that have come to typify the current range of flagships, but larger phones like the Xperia Ultra, Galaxy Mega/Note and HTC One Max. Looking at the devices that reach these shores unofficially as well as those sold through the networks it's reasonable to suggest that a 6" screened phone is going to be the next standard.

In Auckland I'm seeing them everywhere - particularly in the hands of students and other younger people.

Why the popularity? I'm guessing there are multiple reasons. Large keyboards, better media consumption, usually better battery life and reasonable pricing. The roadblocks to large phablet adoption are being blasted away too - we rarely make voice calls any more, the weight difference between a 5" and 6" screen phone has become less significant and the alternative of carrying a phone and a tablet is just clumsy. Commuting with a larger screened phone for company is just so much better that we're apparently prepared to put up with larger devices filling our handbags or making lumps in our pockets.

For the tablet market this may have ramifications. 7" and 8" tablets don't really offer a significant enough benefit over a large phone to justify a purchase. Even a cheap no-name tablet and standard sized phone don't make a strong argument for owning both. As this smaller tablet sector has been where most of the market growth has been taking place I wonder what that means for the tablet market as a whole? I suspect that most users will stick to a large phone for mobile use and a large (10") tablet for home. The middle ground is surely a contracting market now.

If the Kiwi experience is replicated around the globe then Apple's decision to launch two larger phones, in direct opposition to the late Steve Jobs dislike of them, looks like a pretty clever move. Even if the larger 5.5" device may not be the 'giant' in the market we first thought.

With the lines between phablet and tablet blurring what size phone will you be using in a year's time?


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