Despite shrinking shipments for PCs, tablets, and ultra-mobiles, shipments of phablets – phone/tablet hybrids – are expected to grow 66 percent in 2015, according to new research from IC Insights. This translates into 252 million units of large-screen smartphones, with displays of 5 inches or larger, shipping this year, up from 152 million units sold in 2014.
The new update to the 2015 IC Market Drivers report indicates that phablets are expected to surpass worldwide shipments of tablet computers in 2015. Tablet sales are projected to increase by only two percent in 2015, reaching 238 million units.
One momentum driver, said IC Insights, was the success of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus handset, which started shipping in September 2014 with continued momentum in the first half of 2015. Apple shipped 61.2 million iPhone handsets in the first quarter of 2015, a 40 percent increase over the same quarter in 2014, said IC Insights.
The revised forecast projects large-screen smartphone shipments to increase by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent between 2014 and 2018, while tablet unit shipments will grow by a three percent CAGR during the same period. IC Insights expects strong sales of large-screen smartphones to continue over the next three years while the tablet market remains in the low single-digit percentage growth range over the forecast period.
IC Insights analysts expect the phablet market to account for 17 percent of total smartphone shipments in 2015, which are forecast to be about 1.5 billion handsets. Projections show stronger growth in the following two years with phablets accounting for 21 percent of the 1.7 billion smartphones forecast to be shipped in 2016, and 30 percent of the nearly 2 billion total smartphones shipped in 2018.
Strong demand for phablets is having the biggest impact on mini tablets, with 7- to 8.9-inch displays, said IC Insights. “Tablet unit sales have nearly stalled out because incremental improvements in new models have not been enough to convince owners of existing systems to buy replacements,” according to the report.
As a result more consumers are buying large-screen phablets instead of using both a smartphone and tablet. IC Insights said another reason for the trend is that “more handsets are being used for video applications (including streaming of TV programs and movies) in addition to Internet web browsing, video gaming, GPS navigation, and looking at digital photos.”