LONDON: The global market for phablets, defined as smartphones with a 5.6 inch display or above, is expected to grow sixfold over the next four years according to a new forecast.

From just 20m shipments in 2013, global phablet shipments will grow to over 120m units by 2018, Juniper Research, the technology market research company, said.

In its third edition of Tablets, Phablets, Hybrids & eReaders: Market Strategies & Forecasts 2014-2018, Juniper argued that the phablet device will become especially popular in South Korea and China while the market should provide enough space for both established global brands and low-end domestic vendors.

Juniper identified South Korea as a key growth market due to its high proportion of gamers who prefer larger displays, adding that China's large population of content streamers would benefit from higher-quality screens than those offered by standard-size smartphones.

By targeting technology-savvy consumer segments, particularly in East Asia, Juniper said it expected global brands to be able to build on their flagship models.

Growth will be driven largely by Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows mobile operating systems, predicted Juniper.

The report also noted that the Nokia Lumia range is likely to "find success in the more affluent demographics of developing nations".

Lumia is expected to drive the Windows operating system, the report said, while Android will be driven by the "the latest in Samsung's Note series in developed markets".

But Juniper also warned that the current dominance of Android and Windows in the phablet market "could change dramatically" if Apple launches an updated iPhone this year, featuring a screen size of 5.6 inches or more.

Data sourced from Juniper Research; additional content by Warc staff