Samsung Group is seeking to dazzle followers of the phablet with bigger screens, and even possibly with a curved one, in its attempt to fence off a segment of smartphones once mocked for their girth and size.
Phablets, a cross between a phone and a tablet, have been on a roll since late 2011 as tech-savvy consumers, particularly in Asia, devote more time browsing data-heavy Web pages and downloading media content. Even Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone, released in April this year, has a 5-inch screen that puts it squarely in the phablet category for some analysts.
On Wednesday, Samsung kicked off global sales of its latest Galaxy Note 3 smartphone in Seoul. The phablet, which boasts a 5.7-inch screen and costs $990 in South Korea without a carrier contract, will be available in 140 nations by October.
Analysts say the medium-term outlook for phablets is good, but price points and the lure of their smaller, more portable cousins will keep a lid on consumer enthusiasm.
Canalys expects smartphones with 5.1-6 inch screens to make up 6 percent of the market in 2013. The Singapore-based research firm is estimating overall global shipments of 993 million smartphones this year.
"We're certainly seeing a shift for large-screen phones, but the vast majority of volumes are sub-5-inch - over 90 percent," said Rachel Lashford, an analyst at Canalys. "We would need to see devices at lower price points and from a much wider range of vendors, including Apple, to go beyond these forecasts."
The growing popularity of phablets has galvanised Western names into action.
Google's Motorola unit recently launched a 5-inch Droid Ultra, and even Apple Inc, which has stuck to a 3.5-inch form factor for its iPhone since 2007 debut, is also exploring offering iPhones with larger screens, four people with knowledge of the matter said previously.
Nokia had originally planned to launch a large-screen phablet in late September.
"Samsung has been the leader in this trend, helped by its ability to create and drive the segment through significant advertising and marketing," Lashford said.
GETTING EVER BIGGER
Driving the phablet's shift to the mainstream is a confluence of trends. Users prefer larger screens