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Phablet shipments soar at expense of portable PCs

IDC expects large-screen smartphones to grow from 14% of global market in 2014 to 32.2% in 2018

Phablet shipments soar at expense of portable PCs

Worldwide phablet shipments (smartphones with screen sizes from 5.1 to 6.9 inches) will reach 175m units worldwide in 2014, passing the 170m portable PCs expected to ship during the same period, according the International Data Corporation's (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Smart Connected Device Tracker.

Next year, total phablet volumes will top 318m units, surpassing the 233m tablets forecast to ship in 2015.

While phablets are a relatively new category, first picking up volume in 2012, the pressure that the category has placed on the tablet market has already been clearly observed, according to IDC, as the growth of smaller, 7-inch tablets has begun to slow.

The research company expects more consumers to shift back toward larger-sized tablets with their next purchase. However, that trend has not made up for the decreased shipments of smaller sizes, which has resulted in lower overall expectations for the tablet market in 2014 and beyond.

"With Apple expected to join the space in the coming weeks, we anticipate even more attention on phablets as larger-screen smartphones become the new norm," said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

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IDC expects phablets to grow from 14% of the worldwide smartphone market in 2014 to 32.2% in 2018.

As the smart connected device market matures, and emerging markets drive more of the growth, the percentage of the market made up of phablets plus regular smartphones is expected to increase. In 2014 IDC expects smartphones to represent about 70% of the total market. By 2018 that will grow to 75.6%. While consumers in territories such as the US and Western Europe are likely to own a combination of PCs, tablets, and smartphones, in many places the smartphone, regardless of size, will be the one connected device of choice.

Dropping average selling prices (ASPs) for phablets and smartphones will help drive this trend. In 2013, a phablet cost an average of $568 versus a regular smartphone at $320, while IDC forecasts that in 2014 those prices will drop to $397 and $291, respectively.

"Clearly, mobile computing is a space where consumers are still trying to figure out what mix of devices and screen sizes will suit them best," said Tom Mainelli, programme vice president with IDC's Devices and Displays.

"What works well today could very well shift tomorrow as phones gain larger screens, tablets become more powerful replacements for PCs, and even smartwatch screens join the fray."

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