Big-screen smartphones buck trend of falling sales

Smartphones with large screens are proving a hit with gadget-savvy consumers here, breathing life into a saturated market which would otherwise have slumped on the back of lacklustre sales of smaller models.

Sales of phablets - the term coined for smartphones with larger screen sizes of 51/2 inches (14cm) to seven inches - have soared recently. Some 821,000 units were shipped in during the 12 months to June, according to market research firm IDC, which tracks the shipment of consumer devices here.

This is more than double the figure for the same period a year earlier, when the research firm started tracking such devices.

Thanks to phablet sales, the smartphone market grew 12 per cent, said IDC.

In contrast, some 2.9 million of the smaller-screen smartphones were shipped here from July last year to June this year, 3 per cent less than a year ago, the firm said.

Separate research from market research firm GfK Asia, which tracks retail sales here, shows that 5 per cent fewer of such smartphones were sold from September last year to August this year, a period during which dominant phonemakers Apple and Samsung launched the iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5, respectively.

Consumers bought 1.8 million smartphones during this period, compared with 1.9 million a year earlier.

In a market where almost everyone has a smartphone, people generally replace their models every 18 to 24 months, in line with telcos' two-year contracts.

Noted IDC Asia-Pacific senior market analyst Kiranjeet Kaur: "Most people here already own a smartphone. There is not much room to grow except by enticing people to change their phones more often."

But the easy-on-the-eye phablets are bucking the trend.

Sales manager Faith Heng, 36, is one of the growing number of fans. She uses her phone to read the figures crammed on Excel spreadsheets.

"A big-screen phone is the best alternative to a tablet. I could never switch back to a smaller-screen phone," she said.

Senior analyst Clement Teo of US-based market research firm Forrester said: "Phablets are filling the gap for users needing a bigger screen but not wanting a tablet."

IDC and GfK have not yet released the smartphone sales and shipment figures for last month.

But demand for the iPhone 6 Plus phablet and its smaller counterpart, the iPhone 6, which were launched then, is expected to lift the overall sales.

On why the iPhone 6 is still so coveted despite it being smaller than a phablet, Mr Teo said: "A new digital wallet called Apple Pay is a major driver."


This article was first published on Oct 27, 2014.
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