The 7-inch Kindle Fire made a splash when the first model came out in late 2011 and many other small tablet models, such as Google’s Nexus 7, have followed. While you lose some screen real estate, these smaller tablets have several advantages in being lighter, more portable and generally less expensive than 8-inch and higher models.
This combination of lower price and good enough functionality would seem enough to establish small tablets as the volume leader in tablet shipments for years to come, but not so fast.
There is a new class of competitive device that started with Samsung’s first Galaxy Note, quickly dubbed by pundits a phablet. Sporting between a 5- and 6-inch display, phablets offer even greater portability and can also be used as a phone.
Last month tech analyst Bob O’Donnell made the bold prediction that phablets would outsell 7-inch tablets in 2014; now he’s filled in the blanks with a detailed forecast of how the number shake out.
His firm, Technalysis Research, forecasts worldwide unit shipments for the large smartphone category or “phablets” (though he thinks “mobile connected devices” is a better term) will reach just over 240 million units in 2014 versus 173 million for notebooks and 158 million for small tablets with screen sizes between 7- 8-inches.
“We are in the midst of a dramatic recasting of the entire market for devices,” said O’Donnell. “In fact, you could argue it’s leading to a complete redefinition of what computing is, what computing means and where computing happens.
“As a result of these changes, there will likely be enormous shifts in power and influence across vendors, across ecosystems and across geographical regions. It’s safe to say that the world of computing and intelligent devices will look very different in 5 years compared to what it is today.”
Technalysis Research also predicts approximately one of three smartphones shipping worldwide in 2018 will have a 5-inch screen or larger.
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