Business Technology

MWC 2015: Consumer demand for multimedia content drives phablet sales

4 min read

03 March 2015

Former deputy editor

Consumer demand for phablets – smartphones with a 5.5-inch screen or larger – is being driven by a hunger for multimedia content, and businesses have an opportunity to capitalise on the trend.

It’s said that Samsung started trailblazing the way for the term phablet with the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note in 2011, while the Galaxy Note 4 was scaled up to a 5.7-inch screen in 2014. Seemingly Apple was forced to jump on the bandwagon last year, as it introduced the iPhone 6 Plus, which boasted a 5.5-inch screen to enter phablet territory for the first time.

Even non-phablet smartphone sizes are increasingly larger, with the new Samsung Galaxy S6 equipped with a 5.1-inch screen and the HTC One M9 with a five-inch screen. 

As production of the devices continues to rise, it led phablets to account for 12.8 per cent of all mobile sales globally in Q4 2014 and marked the best sales performance so far, according to market research firm GfK.

Ownership of phablets is growing in all regions worldwide, with Asia Pacific leading adoption of the devices, which accounted for 17.5 per cent of all mobiles sold locally at an 11 per cent growth, in Q4 2014.

With a rising number of mobile-first and digital businesses like Facebook, Netflix, Snapchat, Vine, Instagram and more, consumer demand for multimedia content is stimulating the growth, while lower prices amidst more options on the market is also increasing the trend.

Arndt Polifke, global director of telecoms at GfK, says: “The phablet’s not-so-secret weapon is its screen size, perfect for consuming the media content people have become addicted to. Phablets are all-rounders, fulfilling the combined roles of a smartphone and tablet – but for a lower price than just one of these devices.”

It’s opening an opportunity for smaller companies, regardless of the region, to use the channels – and indeed phablets – to deliver engaging content for customers, something demonstrated by larger brands as they produce content for Vine and other social networks to get users engaging.

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The study found that the market share of phablets is eating into that of regular smartphones, which saw unit sales fall by 13 per cent in Q4 2014 compared to 100 per cent in Q4 2011 when the phablet market was yet to erupt.

Polifke added: “Consumers are starting to choose phablets instead of normal smartphones. We expect to see this trend continue in 2015 for two reasons: firstly, the appeal of a hybrid phone/tablet is particularly strong in emerging markets where consumers can now make a choice between a basic smartphone and one with tablet capabilities for almost the same price.

“Secondly, more affordable models are coming to market, with a number of models now available for $150 or less, making them accessible to many more people. For the tech-obsessed consumer, more sophisticated models are available for $800 plus. With their multiple uses and price points from low to high, the phablet is poised for greatness in 2015.”

In terms of prices in Q4 2014, the average prices were: Europe $761; Latin America $631; Africa $625; Middle East $511, and APAC $466.