Pi Attitude Zone: Connectivity & Drive

The Phabulous Phablet

Is it a phone?  Is it a tablet computer?  Yes.

The Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy SIII , powered by Google’s Android, are scoring impressive successes in the worldwide mobile market.  Their design is rather big for a cellphone, and pretty small by the standards of tablet computers, though it has unmistakable characteristics of both those device types. And it has taken the market by storm less because of what it is than what it is not. It both identifies and fills a gap.

Samsung’s bigger-than-an-iPhone-but-smaller-than-an-iPad format has been dubbed the “phablet”, bridging the divide between a phone and a tablet, complete with an adequately-sized display for web-browsing.

Apple has separate offerings in both device categories, each one hugely popular, and seems to have assumed that (a) consumers were so avid for mobile gizmos that they would double up and buy one of each; and (b) that the Apple name and reputation would be enough to see off “me too” challenges.  This justified their decision to stick with their design and sizing standard. 

Except that the phablet is turning out to be more than just a hybrid.  It’s a satisfactory choice in its own right for people who want to economize and avoid product redundancy – not so much “me too” as “me two-in-one”.  Phablets have been leaching away sales that Apple assumed would go to iPhones and iPads.  The market leader seems to have wrong-footed itself for once, and it may be a year before it can fill a gap it apparently didn’t see coming.  In mobile consumer electronics sales, a year can be a market-shifting eternity. 

This is about more than just the US market, where Apple still enjoys an imposing dominance.  In many countries, particularly the less affluent ones, mobile telephony has been overleaping fixed-line phone technology, and becoming the market standard.  In such lower-income environments, consumers are looking for maximum utility at minimum price.  Apple has stumbled internationally due to lack of a low-priced iPhone, coupled with a gap where its dual-purpose hybrid format ought to be.

Apple has a history of finding gaps in the market.  But once in a while, it seems, a rival finds a market in a gap. 

Pi says:  being the leading brand in mobile telephony does not mean having the market in your pocket -- unless your lead gizmo fits into the consumer’s pocket, without over-taxing that pocket price-wise.

Zone: Connectivity & Drive Country: Multiple Geographies Product – Communications