Tablet sales projections revised slightly down, but phablet sales make up the slack

Introduction

As we’ve mentioned before, the “mobile device” market (defined largely from the launch of the iPhone as the first consumer smartphone onwards), as distinct from the tablet and the mobile-phone market, is a keenly fluid place and is constantly being redefined by new types of devices that shape new types of form factors.

It should come as no surprise then that IDC, amongst other research groups, have recently tempered their predictions for future projections of tablet device sales (define as any mobile device with a 7 inch screen or larger). This is amidst news of slowing tablet sales in China and other emerging markets.

Enterprise purchasers driving growth

But fret not – The revision downwards is slight and doesn’t represent any real damage to the mobile device industry as a whole:

Despite the slight reduction for this year, the market will continue to grow at a rapid pace and by 2017 IDC expects worldwide shipments to be nearly 407 million units. The company also adjusted its regional outlook, with maturing markets such as the U.S. now expected to cede share more rapidly to emerging markets such as Asia/Pacific.

Note that the IDC report from the 29th of August of this year is also one of the first to comment on the key role of educational enterprise in driving tablet adoption rates by saying:

Education projects and adoption in vertical markets such as retail are contributing factors as this segment is set to slowly double from the 10% share it held in 2012 to 20% by 2017.

Phablets

But by far the most important aspect of these figures is that they provide comprehensive, worldwide evidence that “phablets” (essentially a tablet phone with a size range of about 5 – 6.9 inches) have established themselves as part of the general spectrum of mobile devices.

Smartphones with screen sizes of five to just under seven inches, colloquially known as phablets, overtook shipments of each of the portable OC and tablet device categories in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) in the second quarter of 2013.

There are a number of interesting conclusions we can draw about this data. Firstly, the diverse range of mobile devices that now exist to some extent vindicate an app-based approach that create a degree of responsiveness and performance not as easily as can be created in browsers, and secondly (and perhaps most importantly in the long run), the “phablet” represents a space in which Apple has no hardware presence as of yet (by comparison, virtually every other major mobile manufacturer does). Some will see this as a sign that Apple has lost initiative to other companies when it comes to ability to innovate (they were also late in creating a 7 inch tablet comparable to Google’s Nexus 7), but it’s certainly something that Cupertino must be taking note of and developing some kind of a response to: Is Apple at the concept stage of their own phablet, or are they further along?

Categories: Industry Research

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