SINGAPORE: There are signs that the rise of the phablet in Asia may be short-lived as new data indicates a nascent trend to the use of tablets with cellular voice capabilities.
A year ago, International Data Corporation (IDC) was reporting that sales of phablets in the region had doubled and stood at the same level as tablets – devices with a screen size of seven inches or more – and laptops combined.
But it has now found that tablets which have voice calling built in are taking an increasing share of shipments to Asia Pacific (excluding Japan).
According to its Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker report, some 13.8m tablets were shipped in the region in the second quarter of 2014. Of these, almost 25% included a voice calling option as standard. IDC said that this was equivalent to 60% growth on a year-on-year basis in unit terms for this category of tablets.
The surge in terms of both shipments and vendors since the beginning of this year, has been particularly noteworthy in some markets, including India and Indonesia, where shipments of voice-calling enabled tablets are approaching a 50% share.
The concept is not actually new, noted Avinash K. Sundaram, Senior Market Analyst IDC Asia/Pacific's Client Devices team, as earlier Samsung devices offered the option via a Bluetooth headset.
But he thought the shift being observed presaged a new development, as consumers in emerging markets were increasingly interested in having a single mobile device for all their needs, "be it watching movies and soap operas, taking pictures, texting or making calls, even if the device has a huge 7" screen on it".
That raised an image of users almost having to use two hands to hold a device to their face when making a call.
"It also helps that these devices are quite affordable, playing in the entry-to-mainstream price bands in most markets," Sundaram added.
That combination of addressing a need and offering a competitive price means that IDC believes this trend shift will continue to gain momentum.
A final point to note is that these devices are currently all Android-based. It remains to be seen whether devices based on other operating systems follow this route.
Data sourced from IDC; additional content by Warc staff