In terms of the device hardware, phablets are virtually identical to smartphones, with only the bigger screen and battery to differentiate many models.
Moreover, the market for these devices is evolving beyond the initial consumer focus, with the ongoing exploration of more enterprise mobility use-cases.
According to the latest worldwide market study by Juniper Research, over 400 million phablets will ship in 2019 -- that's a five-fold increase over the 138 million devices estimated to be shipped in 2015.
While the Apple iPhone 6 Plus has brought the phablet category further into the limelight, it is more affordable Google Android devices that will drive phablets into the global mainstream.
The Juniper study has found that with steady increases in smartphone screen sizes, many flagship smartphones are likely to be considered phablets, by default, within 2 or 3 years.
This is because people worldwide are increasingly using their smartphones as media consumption and gaming devices, which offer richer experiences through a larger screen.
That said, consumers with phablets may be less likely to buy smaller-screened tablets. Juniper expects this trend to slow media tablet adoption in markets where consumers already do most computing on smartphones, such as China.
The study has also found that for many stakeholders, device elements are becoming more similar. "The same semiconductor chips can now power any mobile device, from smartphones to laptops," said James Moar, research analyst at Juniper Research.
Moar says that hardware capabilities are blurring, with devices like cellular-connected tablets, phablets and smartphones with console-level graphics and sound systems becoming much more common. This shifts device design parameters to budgets and use-cases, rather than technological features.
Key findings from the market study include:
- Chinese vendors looking to expand their tablet and phablet offerings internationally are likely to see much slower growth due to low-key marketing strategies and online-only distribution.
- The use of phablets in the workplace is expected to increase in the coming years, with more vendors offering mobility productivity software apps with certain devices.