Several new phablets – phone and tablet hybrids – will arrive in the Middle East over the next month as manufacturers seek to segment the smart-devices market and carve out new niches.
Taiwan’s HTC has rolled out its latest phablet, a 5.9-inch device called One Max. It has the computing power of a tablet device with the connectivity of a mobile phone. It joins Samsung’s Note 3, LG’s new curved six-inch phablet and Sony’s Xperia Ultra.
Sales of phablets,which range between five to seven inches in size, are on the rise in the region.
“What we’ve been seeing is the emergence of phablets. Consumers are now using devices in different ways and merging all different types of technology. The phablet just becomes a universal device,” said Ian Rea, HTC’s global account product marketing manager. “There is a demand in the Middle East for bigger screens, this is why we’re bringing this device.”
In the second quarter, phablet shipments overtook laptop and tablet shipments. Technology research firm IDC says Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, China, Latin America and the Middle East will account for 51 per cent of global phablet shipments in 2017.
“Phablets first started as a trend driven by mature markets like South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, and these markets continue to rise,” said Melissa Chau, an IDC analyst. “What’s changed now is the added pick-up of phablets in emerging markets like China and India.”
Consumers, rather than companies, are driving the demand for phablets. But this could soon change as business professionals look to computers that are more portable than laptops.
Ziad Matar, Qualcomm’s head of Middle East and Central Asia, said tablets were being marketed for use by women and children and for use in the education and health care sectors, but phablet sales were taking off.
Currently, most people use their smartphones for surfing the internet, using social media websites and watching videos, rather than making phone calls.
According to the market research firm GlobalWebIndex, Google Maps and Facebook were the two most used mobile applications last month. Globally, mobile devices account for 40 per cent of YouTube’s traffic.
Phablets are becoming more popular because they combine large screens with the portability of mobile phones. Meanwhile, consumer electronics producers are looking at accessories for phablets, particularly blutooth-enabled headsets or mini phones and smartwatches to make phone calls or use text-messaging with.
“We’ve seen the demand. The Galaxy Note did well for us, what we’ve seen typically is a lot of hardcore BlackBerry users have switched to phablets. If you’re somebody who travels and needs to get work done when you’re out of the office, phablets make it easier,” said Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky’s Electronics.
“It is more of a niche market here, not everyone is the right customer for a phablet, but from a multimedia content point of view, it is easier to watch movies when you’re on the plane and you don’t really see much of that on regular smartphones unless you’re watching a short Youtube video.”
The HTC One Max will be available in the UAE and Saudi Arabia by Tuesday.