Phablets: main markets, pros and cons and best devices

Published on Aug 07, 2014 in App Development

The growing of phablets in Asia

Phablets are hybrid devices which combine the functions of a smartphone and a tablet; their screens are bigger than the smartphone ones and smaller than tablets (phablets’ screens are usually 5 to 7 inches). The size of their screens makes them more comfortable than a smartphone for typing, web browsing or video viewing, and they also allow including bigger batteries, which last longer than smartphone ones.

Phablets are increasing their sales (25.6 million phablets were sold in 2012 and it’s estimated that these sales will grow to 146 million by 2016), and they have experienced a big growth in shipments across the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, phablets were originally designed for Asia and other emerging markets where consumers can’t afford both a smartphone and a tablet. Now we can confirm that much of the expansion can be attributed to emerging markets like China and India, although these devices have finally become successful in North America and other developed countries too. The Asia-Pacific region (with major markets like Japan and South Korea) will remain the world's biggest market for phablets in the near future; last year, the region represented 42% of global shipments, a proportion that will expand over the next years to over 50% percent of shipments by 2017. As countries like China, India and Malaysia roll out 4G networks, it’s expected that they will start demanding for larger screen devices as well.

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Best phablets

The rise of low-cost phablets has ended Samsung's dominance of the market. In 2013, Samsung's Note series had some serious competition for the first time, when almost all phone makers decided to introduce their phablets. Right now, Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra have two of the most powerful processors.

For the moment, it seems Samsung is still the king of phablets with its Galaxy Note 3, probably the most complete Android phablet in the market. The HD screen of this 5.7” device offers a lot of details, clarity and sharpness and it’s very pleasant to the eyes; its high resolution makes this device outstanding to watch videos. It has a sensor that lets you swipe the photo gallery just by moving your hand, and it can also track your eyes movement, so it knows if you’re looking up or down as you browse the web, and it moves accordingly. Thanks to its S Pen, the Note 3 introduces new multitasking functionalities, such as watching two Youtube videos at the same time (placing one over the other on the screen). In addition, you can place the pop-up videos wherever you want while you do other things, which makes it perfect for multitasking. And whenever you want, you just have to draw a square on the screen and you will access the menu. Note 3’s keyboard comes with a bunch of punctuation keys and a special row for numbers. As for the pictures, it has lots of features to change their colour, exposure, filters… Note 3’s battery can last up to two days if you’re not a heavy user, but at least one full day is guaranteed. phablets 3

Sony Xperia Z Ultra (6.3”) is a robust device, built with good materials and offering a good design. Its main disadvantage is that maybe it is too big (it has the largest screen of the market so far). Probably, the perfect, comfortable limit of phablets’ screen size is in Samsung Galaxy Note 3’s 5.7”. On the other hand, the Sony device is waterproof, it has a long lasting battery, a high-resolution camera, a quad core processor and lots of RAM. Another Sony model, the Xperia T2 Ultra, offers the longest battery life ever. It is a 6”, thin and light phablet, with a good camera and a dual SIM functionality.

LG presented its innovative 6” LG G Flex, the first with a curved screen. The main con of this device is its low resolution (720p), when compared to other phablets as the Samsung or Sony ones (1080p). Obviously, G Flex’s major attraction is its curved screen, though it hasn’t been proved that it really offers many advantages. LG also has the Pro 2 (5.9”), the only phablet with an optically stabilized camera. This is probably better but less innovative than the Flex device, with extremely high pixel density screen (373ppi). Its IR blaster allows you to take control of your TV, air conditioner or DVD player.

Windows Phone Lumia 1520 is Nokia’s first phablet. It’s a 6” device, with full HD and quad-core Snapdragon, but the battery is not user replaceable.

OnePlus One phablet has one of the smallest screens (5.5”), but with a great resolution, the best processor, hardware, battery and RAM. And its best point is it costs about half as its competitors.

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Phablets’ pros and cons

On the one hand, phablets’ high-resolution screens make them undoubtedly awesome for multimedia viewing like videos, games, web browsing and video calls. Users are increasingly consuming more visual contents on their phones, and they use them less for calls. Phablets are also perfect for reading, writing and editing long documents, and sound and image quality are higher than in a smartphone. The higher battery life and screen power efficiency help explain the popularity of phablets too. In conclusion, phablets are a great option for users looking for a phone and a tablet: they’ll have both devices in one. This way, you can shift to a larger screen but more portable than a tablet. In this sense, this could be the beginning of the phablet's cannibalization of the tablet market.

On the other hand, phablets’ best point can turn into their worst nightmare: the huge screen makes them uncomfortable to hold and type with one hand, or to keep them in your pocket. A 7” screen can also be excessively big to answer calls, because it is as big as your face. So for the moment, it seems consumers still prefer to use a device for each thing. It looks like phablets’ success depends on providing high resolution screens, big but not gigantic; probably not bigger than 5.7 or 6”.

Galaxy Note 3 vs Galaxy s4 mini
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