A big screen story

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | Updated: Dec 17 2013, 10:30am hrs
Early this year, when large-screen phones, or phablets, started making a real mark, many were pretty convinced that this was going to be a big trend, at least for 2013. No one can take a long-term call as far as smartphones are concerned. Product cycles are so small and trends so short-lived that by the time an innovative device has hit the market, its manufacturers have already moved on to implementing newer ideas.

However, the phablet concept seems like it is going to be more than just a flash in the pan. In fact, research firm IDC predicts that by 2017, this segment would be strong enough to stall the growth of tablets to single digits from the 53% yoy growth recorded in 2013. That would be a great achievement for something that came about as a midway device between the phone and the tablet. Even the name phablet is just a mix of the words phone and tablet.

So, what is behind the stupendous success of these 5-inch-plus smartphones The one big USP is definitely the value for money proposition these devices give you. Yes, they are smartphones, but with screen sizes ranging from 5 to 6.9 inches, they come with much more real estate than their smaller siblings. This means, for most users, a phablet dispenses with the need to acquire a tablet. You can actually consume content in a more efficient way, be it long text stories or videos. There is also the fact that despite their larger sizes, these phones are often considerably cheaper than flagship devices.

Incidentally, India was among the first geographies where the phablet became a rage as it gave smartphone buyers more screen for their buck. So much so that Indian manufacturers, along with Samsung, made a killing before the other manufacturers woke up to the potential of these phones. This segment is more than 30% of the booming smartphone market in the country now. While initially most of them stuck to the 5-inch mark, the envelope has now been clearly pushed beyond 6 inches. Manufacturers can play around till 6.9 inches, as anything more would make it a tablet that comes with a higher duty.

But is there more to this success story Well, I would like to think so. A large screen on the phone means there is going to be much more space to place ads on mobile internet properties. These ads will also be much more effective than when they are viewed on tiny 3-inch screens that used to be the fad till now. People are more likely to watch video on a 5-inch screen that on a smaller one, and ads on video are more effective as they are unavoidable at least for the first few seconds. All this just means larger screens make much better sense for the mobile economy as a whole.

Despite what might seem like a slightly sinister ploy to make the world use a larger screen, there is no denying the fact that these devices are much better to use. Though it is a largely Android play at the moment, it won't take long for large screens to be available in all operating systems. While Nokia has finally taken Windows Phone to 5 and 6 inch screens, Apple is holding out. But that might not be for long as the rumour mills have for some time been spinning stories about a larger iPhone. However, Apple or no Apple, the large-screen phone is here to stay, maybe even at the cost of the tablet.

The author is editor, New Media, Indian Express Group