Smartphone-Tablet Combos Are Putting The Squeeze On Tablet PCs
July 11, 2014

Smartphone-Tablet Combinations Are Putting The Squeeze On Tablet PCs

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

Those ultra-small tablets are getting the squeeze – not by users but rather by phablets, the so-called combination smartphone-tablet device.

According to the new NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report, tablet PC demand saw a decline year-to-year for the time, and many top brands even reported weak tablet PC shipment results in Q1 of this year due in part to delayed launches of new products. As a result, NPD DisplaySearch has lowered its forecast for tablet PC shipments to just 285 million units for 2014.

Demand for the smaller computing devices has declined in the emerging markets and this has in turn affected the overall picture for tablets.

"Tablet PC demand in 2014 is being affected by falling demand for the 7-inch class in emerging regions and in China, where many local white-box brands have experienced lower-than-expected shipment growth," said Hisakazu Torii, vice president, smart application research at NPD DisplaySearch, in a statement. "Most major brands have recently reduced their business plans for 2014. There is a risk that the replacement cycle for tablet PCs will lengthen beyond the one to two year range unless brands can develop more attractive usage scenarios."

Moreover, NPD DisplaySearch reported that there could be increased competition between 5.5-inch and larger smartphones and the seven- to 7.9-inch tablet market. The result being that something has to give, and that will likely be the PC displays, which peaked at 58 percent market share in 2013, but are now seeing a gradual decline in 2014 and beyond.

With smartphones getting larger it was clear there was going to be overlap with tablets say analysts.

"Where does a tablet end and a phablet begin? It's all in the eye of the beholder," Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics told redOrbit. "These are shades of grey and everyone is throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. We are in a rectangular touchscreen slab world with fluid boundaries engaging in the portability/usability trade-off game."

While some devices might stick as Entner postulated, some major brands are likely to move away from the smaller tablets and to larger sizes. NPD DisplaySearch is forecasting that shipments of eight- to 10.9-inch tablet PCs will actually overtake the seven- to 7.9-inch tablet PC market by 2019. Moreover, the forecast now predicts that 11-inch and larger tablets could exceed 10 percent of the market by 2018.

This could mean less consumer choice, but telecommunications industry analyst Jeff Kagan told redOrbit that this move might not be such a bad thing.

"Today there are simply too many different size devices, period," Kagan noted. "Yesterday there was just a small smartphone. Next was the NetBook. Larger than a phone but smaller than a laptop. Didn't work. Next was the full size tablet like the iPad. Next was the small size tablet."

Kagan told redOrbit that as a result consumers are now left with a variety of devices that fill up the middle ground like larger smartphones or phablets.

"We are still in the very early part of chapter one of this new book. So there is plenty of time for the marketplace to sort through all this chaos and settle on a few key device sizes," Kagan added.

While this may limit some options in the end it could ease consumer confusion, ease overlapping products and allow developers to better focus on applications and software.

However, the convergence of the tablet with the smartphone as the phablet might still not be the Holy Grail item that consumers seek.

"We all want one device that can do different things," Kagan noted. "Unfortunately there is no one device that does it all. Smartphones are small enough to carry in our pocket and take anywhere. Tablets are too large to carry in our pockets, but have the larger screen and are better for surfing and watching television or movies."

The question then becomes where it might go from here?

"What we really need is a convertible device that starts out the size of a smartphone then expands in screen size to a tablet. The first company to come up with that will be a big winner," Kagan added. "Until then however we must carry too many different devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops and charge them all every night. Bottom line, there is no perfect size device. It's different for everyone, and in fact everyone needs more than one size device. Go figure."


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