NEW YORK/GLOBAL: Almost half of consumers planning to buy a smartphone this year would prefer a 'phablet' to the more conventional offering, a new survey has found.

For its annual Digital Consumer Survey, consulting firm Accenture conducted an online survey of 23,000 consumers in 23 countries about their interest in buying various consumer electronics devices. It found that 57% intended to buy a smartphone in the coming 12 months, and among them, 48% were interested in a phablet as their first choice of device.

The larger screen size of the phablet – typically between five and seven inches compared to the average smartphone's four to five inches – "is hitting a sweet spot for a large percentage of consumers wanting more digitally connected lifestyles", according to David Sovie, managing director of Accenture's Communications, Media and Technology group.

This trend was more evident in emerging markets. Of the consumers planning to buy, around two thirds in India (67%), China (66%) and South Africa (65%) said they would prefer to buy a phablet device. Turkey (64%) and Indonesia (61%) made up the rest of the top five.

At the other end of the scale just 19% of putative purchasers in Japan expressed a preference for a tablet. And while western European countries showed rather more enthusiasm, they were still at only around half the levels seen in the top emerging nations. Thus Germany and the Netherlands were both on 30%, below Sweden (31%) and the UK, France and Australia (all 37%).

Sovie observed that consumer technology companies might wish to consider adjusting their digital strategies, research and development investments, product roadmaps and supply chains accordingly.

"Phablet demand in developed countries is significant, yet even bigger business opportunities are coalescing in emerging markets," he said, adding that China would likely provide the most lucrative opportunity.

The interest in buying larger screens is not restricted to the smartphone-tablet choice as the survey also found that, among the 44% of respondents planning to buy a tablet this year, 72% favour full-size tablets, while just 20% would buy a smaller version.

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff