2013: The year of the Phablet?

Well, as an exercise in nostalgia, we can tell you that, Nokia was still a major mobile contender, slide phones with full qwerty keyboards were the “in” thing, full touchscreen was just being introduced, with LG actually landing the title of world’s first full touchscreen phone with the KE850 Prada, not that anyone remembers that (seriously, look it up) and 3 inches was the average size of a screen on a smartphone.

Jump ahead 6 years to 2013 and the world of the smartphone is an entirely different beast. Slide phones were effectively slaughtered by the iPhone’s responsive touchscreen keyboard, Nokia is dying a slow painful death at the hands of Apple and Samsung and the average screen size of smartphones is now somewhere around 4-5 inches, and if the trends we saw at CES this year are anything to go by, that average is only going to go up.

Yes this year is being slated (forgive the pun) as the year of the Phablet, that strange and, until recently, much ridiculed niche evolution of the smartphone where it can’t quite decide whether it’s a phone that wants to be a tablet, or a tablet that’s still got some phone parts kicking around inside.

They’re not actually that new, Dell attempted to bring out a 5inch smartphone in 2010 but at the time 3.5 inches was industry standard and everyone took one look at the heafer that Dell’s offering appeared to be and turned the other way, despite critical reviews at the time being overall positive.

This all changed when Samsung introduced the Note in 2011. By then, through pushing their own phones such as the Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy Nexus with 4 inch screens and other manufacturers doing the same, the jump to 5.3 inches didn’t seem as great, but it was still large enough for the Note to be the butt of many  joke when it was first announced.

Then it went up for sale and the numbers quickly silenced snickering critics as the Note proved to be a very popular, if still niche, item. Fast forward to last year and the Note II’s release and Samsung is clearly onto a winner. The 5.5inch device sold 5 million units in its first month, which has raised a good many eyebrows around the industry and has effectively hit the starting bell for the race on this new Phablet craze.

At CES 2013, there was barely a device with a screen smaller than 5 inches to be seen. Sony’s new Experia Z is 5 inches and is looking to challenge whatever Samsung is cooking into the Galaxy IV, which is sure to also sport at least a 5 inch screen again. But the major talking point in terms of Phablets has to have come from Chinese manufacturer Hauwei and its Ascend Mate.

The Ascent Mate has a massive 6.1 inch screen, making it easily the largest phone-cum-tablet on the market by more than half an inch. And that is also less than an inch smaller than the Nexus 7 or Kindle fire HD who currently are holding the joint title in the 7 inch tablet world. With the AM, Hauwei are, more prominently than any other company, saying that they see a future where one 6-7 inch device does everything that we could want from a tablet or smartphone.

On the surface Phablets do kind of seem a ridiculous idea, for one, taking on a phone call on them still remains about as graceful as using a paving slab for the same job; there’s no way around it, holding a 6inch device to your head and talking looks silly. But then, how much time do any of us actually spend on the phone with our current smartphones? Why bother calling when you can text, facebook message, skype, facetime, whatsapp and gchat someone instead?

And as we see constant speed increases through the mobile data networks, content consumption through phones is only going to go up, and if you’re consuming a lot of content and not doing a lot of talking, what’s the best solution?

Yeah, you got it, the Phablet.

According to market research firm IHS iSuppli, Phablet sales are looking to double this year from 25.6million in 2012, to somewhere around 60 million units by the end of this year.

Now, in a world where there are a billion smartphones sold a year 60 million isn’t really much to get excited about, but at the same time, it’s notoriously hard to even classify what is a Phablet and what is still a Smartphone, so those numbers can’t be entirely accurate, and as average smartphones screen sizes grow naturally along with the market being flooded with more and more variations on the Phablet, the lines are going to get very blurry very fast.

The one area that is really pushing this advancement is the emerging markets of China, India, Malaysia and other countries who are taking great leaps and bounds into the modern mobile markets and, as they’re entering the market when it’s already mature, they’re adopting trends that are niche in the western market. One of these being the Phablet, with many reports pointing to, due to having less disposable income than we do in the west, many in these emerging markets would rather have one solid device that acts as an all-in-one that they can also show off to their friends. It makes sense, as after all, if you have a smartphone you’re already paying for one data-plan, but if you want mobile data on your tablet you have to buy another data-plan and as tablets tend to be data heavy devices by their very nature, it’s asking for wallet heavy charges as a matter of course.

With a single Phablet, you combine your costs into one device, one plan. Everything is in the one place and nothing gets lost.

It’s easy to see why this niche of the market is taking off, but only time will tell if it has staying power. But as an app developer you should definitely be keeping an eye on these devices, as if they continue to be popular, they could represent where the industry is headed as a whole. There are even some that are saying that Phablets could be the devices that ultimately kill PCs due to the all-in-one form factor. Either way, no matter what you’re doing in app development, keeping yourself abreast of the latest trends can keep you ahead of the curve and put you in the right place to develop an app that could earn you a tidy little sum.

Time is of the essence though, and Kumulos’ Mobile Backend as a Service is perfectly suited to turbo charging your development and ensuring that your app development is as smooth and as quick as you want it to be. So why not talk to us today?