By Michael Koziol
(Sydney Morning Herald)
It’s true – size does matter, and bigger is better. So say early adopters of what could become the next trend in mobile phones: the phablet.
A portmanteau of phone and a tablet, the plus-size phablet typically has a screen size between 5.5 and 6.9 inches. And a new study of the Australian smartphone market, released on Tuesday, predicts one in five smartphone users could be carrying a phablet by 2016.
The larger screen has increasing appeal as more consumers use their phone to view video and other media.
“They’re looking at their smartphone rather than holding it to their head,” said Foad Fadaghi, managing director of Telsyte, which conducted the study.
Phablets also have the capacity for faster processors and longer battery life.
Test analyst Artem Kopylov purchased his 6.5 inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra a week ago and said it’s “so far so good”. He considers himself an average user rather than a technology nut, but wanted a better experience of his daily activities; surfing the web, reading books and watching movies.
“I don’t really want to carry a tablet with me everywhere,” he said.
But the larger phablets are not without their difficulties. Using one inside a dark theatre will light up the whole row. Fitting it comfortably inside your pocket can be a hard task.
Mr Kopylov found he can no longer use his phone as a tracking device while exercising.
“You can’t just put it in the pockets of your jeans and go running, or your shorts.”
The enticement of a bigger screen can also be a data killer. One international study found smartphone owners with devices smaller than 4.5 inches used an average of 5GB of data a month, while those with bigger phones used 7.2GB.
According to Telsyte’s research, the popularity of the phablet in Australia will depend on whether Apple releases one later in the year. Mock-up designs have surfaced and it is now expected the company will launch a 5.5 inch iPhone 6 alongside a 4.7 inch version in September.
Of those Australians intending to purchase an iPhone 6, 40 per cent said they would “only consider it if it has a larger screen”, Mr Fadaghi said. In all, he estimates 5.6 million smartphones will be sold in Australia in the second half of this year.
For years Apple has been urged to join rivals by producing a larger-screen phone. Juniper Research says international phablet sales will rocket from 20 million this year to 120 million in 2018, driven by their strong appeal to gamers in China and South Korea.
But other research suggests Europeans are less enthused about the product, with almost half of all phablet purchasers buying a smaller device not long afterwards.