With their global shipments set to more than double this year, phablets are a hot product, as illustrated by their high profile at last week’s 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
The “phablet”—a portmanteau of the words “phone” and “tablet”—is a smartphone with a large display sized 5-inches or bigger. Shipments of phablets in 2013 are forecast to reach 60.4 million units, up a notable 136 percent from 25.6 million last year, according to the IHS iSuppli Mobile Handset Displays market tracker report from information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS).
“The move to offer larger-display smartphones reflects the efforts of both device and panel makers to differentiate their products,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director of small and medium displays at IHS iSuppli. “With consumers demanding more lifelike viewing experiences, the trend to offer such devices makes perfect sense, especially considering the increase in rich content that is being made available on smartphones.”
Expansion in capacity related to low-temperature polysilicon liquid crystal display (LTPS LCD), as well as the resulting reduction in prices for large-size, high-resolution smartphone displays, will enable vigorous double-digit-rate expansion for shipments of 5-inch-and-larger smartphones over the next few years, as shown in the attached figure. In 2016, global phablet shipments are set to reach 146.0 million units.
Chinese OEMs Lead the Way
Chinese phone makers took the lead in new product launches for the 5-inch-and-larger smartphone category at CES this year.
Huawei Technologies showcased what so far appears to be the world’s largest smartphone, the Ascend Mate, with a 6.1-inch display, 720p high-definition (HD) pixel format at 361 pixels per inch (ppi). The company also unveiled the Ascend D2 with a 5-inch display and 1920 x 1080 pixel format at 443 ppi.
Huawei rival ZTE launched the Grand S, which at a profile of 6.9 millimeters stakes claim to being the world's thinnest quad-core smartphone. The Grand S, along with TCL’s Alcatel-branded One Touch Scribe HD and Lenovo’s IdeaPhone K5, will have a pixel format of 1920 x 1080 on a 5-inch screen.
Lenovo at the show also launched the K900 with a 5.5-inch 1080p, 400-ppi Full HD display. Meanwhile, Sony Mobile from Japan introduced the Xperia Z, another 5-inch smartphone with a 1920 x 1080 pixel format.
At a display resolution of 443 ppi, the 5-inch phones with 1920 x 1080 pixel formats exceed the Retina Display resolution of 326 ppi on Apple’s iPhone 5 and the 267 ppi on the Galaxy Note II from Samsung Electronics. The new handsets included water-spill-proofing and shatter-resistant screens.
7-inch and Hybrid Tablets Show Up in Force
Much attention at CES was similarly lavished on smaller-sized tablets featuring competitive pricing.
Acer’s 7-inch Android offering, the Iconia B1-A71 at a 1024 x 768 pixel format, will be priced at $140-$150 in the United States. In addition, the 7-inch 70 Titanium from Archos is competitively priced at $119. The availability of many choices and attractive price points is likely to boost the 7-inch tablet display market to 81.5 million units in 2013, up 46 percent from 2012, IHS believes.
Hybrid tablet prototypes combined with Ultrabooks were also seen at the show, with the tablet portion of the device detachable from the computer. An example was Lenovo’s latest ThinkPad Helix model with an 11.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display. Lenovo also announced the IdeaPad Yoga 11-inch convertible laptop, which folds to become a touch-screen tablet. For its part, Asus debuted the Transformer All-in-One, an 18.5-inch hybrid detachable tablet from the PC featuring a 1920 x 1080 pixel format.
Other tablet launches included the Latitude 10 Essentials from Dell, with a 10.1-inch display featuring a 1366 x 768 pixel format and in-plane switching (IPS) technology, to be available on the market next month.
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