A recent report by WitsView, the display research unit of global intelligence provider TrendForce, notes that higher screen resolution displays and lower-price points had been targets for vendors in 2011 and 2012.
But with high-res tablet displays now mainstream thanks to Google (2560 x 1600 resolution on the Nexus 10) and Apple (2048 x 1536 on the 9.7-inch iPad) and with prices as low as $159 for Amazon’s Kindle Fire, WitsView foresees another big trend coming this year — the 8-inch tablet.
The researcher says that this screen size will be the “next battle field” among tablet vendors, and even suggests 8-inch tablets may have enough clout to replace 7-inch models, which would be no mean feat given the success of the Kindle Fire and rising demand for other 7-inch tablets.
WitsView research director Eric Chiou says that this will only be possible if 8-inch models are priced competitively and if they adopt the same slim bezel design as their 7-inch rivals. Chou adds that this will help "minimize the dimension of the 8-inch” while allowing for the larger display.
The analyst adds that most models will compete with Apple’s 7.85-inch iPad mini if priced $50-$100 cheaper than the iOS tablet, and hints that the 8-inch designs may even check the progress of the phablet, the smartphone-cum-tablet made popular by Samsung's Galaxy Note.
Tablets, phablets and the squeezing effect
“With the smartphone sizes growing, the squeezing effect among sizes should first take place in the small-sized tablet market. Taking the 6.3-inch for example, the 7-inch tablet’s viewing area is only 23% larger, and the small difference makes the 7-inch tablet in an awkward position," he said.
"Contrarily, the 8-inch has a 61% larger viewing area than the 6.3-inch, allowing more comfort when either reading or video watching. The much clearer segmentation can naturally ease the spreading fire brought by the phablet.”
WitsView says that the 8-inch tablet market will remain in the “design-in phase” for the first half of this year, but expects the screen size to take a 11.9% stake in the tablet market by the end of 2013 as models come from Samsung (which has already announced the Galaxy Note 8.0), Acer, HP, Lenovo and Asus.
The research firm isn't the first to hail 2013 as the year for tablets 8-inches and below. Creative Strategies’ Ben Bajarin noted at the TabletBiz conference that 2013 would see people “standardizing on smaller form factors", views which have since been echoed by a number of other industry observers.
Moor Insights & Strategy principal Patrick Moorhead even added that the move to smaller devices could be good for notebook makers, while IDC recently said that 2013 will just be the start for the smaller tablet.
"One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond," said IDC research analyst Jitesh Ubrani, in a recent report.
"Vendors are moving quickly to compete in this space as consumers realize that these small devices are often more ideal than larger tablets for their daily consumption habits."