Phablets to overtake smartphones by 2017

Australia now has 16 million smartphones, up a further 1.1 million from 6 months ago.  With 93% of smartphones running either the Apple or Android Operating system, it would seem this choice between two platforms is the biggest decision new smartphone owners need to make.  But according to a new report from Telsyte, we have a larger trend on the horizon.

According to Telsyte, Android’s dominance has much to do with the size of the screen.  Larger devices make it easier to navigate content, play games and make photos and videos a more engaging experience.  They have longer battery life and faster processing capabilities.   Apple’s retention of the smaller screen has been to their disadvantage. with consumers now demanding the larger screen sizes more readily available on Android devices.

Findings from Telsyte’s Australian Smartphone Market Study 2014-2018 suggest many would change their next purchase decision if a larger screen iPhone was available.   As many as 20% of customers preparing to buy an Android device, would actually switch to a larger iPhone.  In fact, 40% of survey respondents that intend to purchase an iPhone 6 would only do so IF it had a larger screen.

So how large do we want our screens to be?  A recent study by Canalys showed smartphones with screens over 5 inches now make up more than a third of all smartphone shipments globally.   There’s a name for a device that’s bigger than a smartphone, but smaller than a tablet.  It’s called a Phablet, and it’s apparently the next big thing in smart screens.  Telsyte defines a phablet as having a screen size of 5.5 to 6.9 inches, with the current phablet market in Australia described as ‘niche’.  However there are rumours on the horizon, and most analysts believe that Apple is considering the launch of two new larger screen devices later this year.  The rumours suggest we might see a  a 4.7-inch and a 5.5-inch iPhone in 2014, with the larger falling into that category of Phablet.  (The image for this story is a mockup of the iPhone 6 phablet design, based on leaked

In the APAC region, sales of phablets are even higher,  with later screen devices making up 43% of all new phone shipments.  This is possibly driven by a large gaming market in areas like Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.  The European market has been slower to respond and Australians will probably follow the European path. As a market that has been slow to move away from Apple, our uptake of phablets is likely to depend on whether Apple launch their rumoured large iPhone 6 device this year.

Rather than just a niche market or passing phase, a recent report by Business Insider predicted that phablets will overtake smartphones by 2017.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 4.11.15 pm

From a consumer perspective, this may not seem like a new device category.  While consumers may replace an existing smartphones with a phablet, they may not consider it an alternate device, as much as an upgrade to a larger smartphone.   From a media perspective there may be a greater impact however, as these larger screened devices may need special treatment.  Content producers, publishers and advertisers would be well advised to become familiar with the different screen sizes available and remain on top of the quality of content display as screen sizes increase.

One thing is for sure, the change is likely to happen pretty quickly.  According to Telsyte, 5.6 million existing smartphone users will upgrade to a new device later this year, and a further 1.5 million will buy their first smartphone. A third of these have not yet decided on the device they will buy, and a third have indicated they will switch to another platform.  With new rumoured devices, and so much uncertainty from buyers, the only thing we can be sure of is the fast pace of change!



Credit: The image for this story is a concept design of the iPhone 6 phablet by Federico Ciccarese, based on rumoured leaked images from Apple.


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