Why ‘Phablets’ are Gobbling up the Phone and Tablet Markets

Don Adams as Maxwell Smart (aka Agent 86) in the 1965-1970 series "Get Smart."

Huge cell phones are HUGE. And you’d better get used to them. Awkwardly named “phablets” — a sort of phone/tablet combo gadget, with a display at 5.5 inches or larger — are exploding in popularity.

Phablets claimed 21 percent of all U.S. smartphone sales during the first quarter of this year, nearly quadrupling their puny 6 percent share during the same period last year, according to the latest Kantar Worldpanel ComTech market share data.

A lot of this increased popularity is the result of Apple’s entry into the market, which always drags Apple fans into any new trend. But that doesn’t explain all of it. According to Kantar, Apple iPhone 6 Plus accounts for 44 percent of this segment.

Phablets may look comical, not unlike Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. A friend of mine who whipped out his Microsoft-powered 6-inch Nokia Lumia at dinner not long ago had us all doubled over in laughter. Yes, it fit in his pants pocket but it looked, well …

But, like Maxwell Smart’s phone, phablets only look weird when you hold them up to your ear to talk on them. Smart’s shoe looked perfectly fine on his foot, and phablets look great when you are reading web pages or watching movies with the thing on a table.

Phablets make sense, mainly because both phones and tablets don’t make sense any more. As I’m sure you know by now, the kids don’t make phone calls today. They text, they SnapChat. They Skype. But they don’t really need phones. Increasingly, firms are finding ways to offer phones with no calling plan. So who cares if a phablet looks stupid when held up to your ear? A laptop looks stupid held up to your ear, too.

On the other hand, tablets are in trouble, too. Tablet sales saw their first-ever decline in the last quarter of 2014, and even Apple’s tablets lost ground. Some of that drop can be attributed to product cycle, but the story is bigger than that.

Look around at any coffee shop. How many consumers do you see sitting there working on tablets? The things are awkward to hold for long periods, so they don’t qualify as hand-helds. They haven’t replaced laptops or cell phones. And consumers haven’t really warmed to having a third device in their lives that needs constant recharging and carrying. Tablets complicate. Phablets simplify.

The enormous growth of the overgrown phones leads to new questions. In December 2014, Netbiscuits predicted that phablet users would take up 25 percent of web traffic from smartphones by the early this year, according to John Oldshue at SaveOnPhone.com. We’ve seen web designers rush to shrink websites so they were usable on tiny 4-inch displays. Might we see another radical change in design, with screen space opened up again?

At any rate, get used to huge phones. In Asian markets, such as Taiwan and Hong Kong, phablets have devoured 50 percent of the smartphone market, according to Flurry Analytics. Maybe it’s time to start looking for pants with larger pockets.

Sign up for Bob Sullivan’s free email newsletter.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Here’s the Average Retirement Age in Your State
Here’s the Average Retirement Age in Your State

Are you on track to retire at the same age as most residents of your state?

Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement

No. 1 isn’t visiting grandkids, and No. 4 might surprise you.

Don’t Trash These 11 ‘Disposable’ Items — Reuse Them
Don’t Trash These 11 ‘Disposable’ Items — Reuse Them

Are you throwing away money? Consider giving these things a new purpose.

7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New
7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New

Take a few steps to preserve the beauty of your car, and you stand to get a lot more money at trade-in time.

Beware These 3 Tax Penalties on Retirement Accounts
Beware These 3 Tax Penalties on Retirement Accounts

Protecting a nest egg is tough — but you can make the situation far worse with some boneheaded mistakes.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach
10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach

Does the pandemic have you reaching for bleach more than ever before? Learn the ins and outs of using this powerful disinfectant.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.