Phablets - the next big thing?

Phablets - the next big thing?

When Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note, it was greeted with scorn by the tech community who claimed it was too big to use as a phone and too small to use as a tablet. Yet its second iteration, the Galaxy Note II, has gone on to sell more than 3 million units in the 30 days since its launch -- and that was without being available in the US. To put that into perspective, Sony only shipped 8.8 million smartphones in total, worldwide, in the third quarter of 2012.

Next major trend in mobile?

Now comments from Chinese computer maker Lenovo and the actions of Samsung's biggest competitors suggest that the phablet is not a niche product and could well be the next major trend in mobile devices.

During a conference call to discuss his company's earnings on Thursaday, Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing suggested that while 10-inch tablets would soon be replaced by convertible PCs, the latest generation of 7-inch tablets could prove a direct challenge to smartphones: "The market accepts the 7-inch [tablet] better than the 10-inch. That's a very strong signal, the tablet will not replace the traditional PC... Probably, the tablet will compete with the large-screen smartphone rather than the PC," he said.

New devices from LG, HTC - and Sony?

Smartphone makers are also aware of this potential threat and have started to develop their own 5-inch display phones. LG recently launched its 5-inch display Intuition in the US and HTC is about to follow suit with its Droid DNA, which is expected to launch officially in North America on November 13.

Added to this is the fact that Swiss tech site Android Schweiz has just revealed leaked photos and specifications of a 5-inch Sony smartphone, and it would appear that a trend is developing -- in the Android segment of the market at least.

It's also worth noting that when Apple's iPhone 5 was launched back in September that Apple's outspoken co-founder, Steve Wozniak was critical of the company's decision not to make it available in a choice of screen sizes. He told African tech site TechCentral: "I wish [Apple] had made wider versions - a small and a large version of the iPhone...Not all people want the same thing. A lot of people want the big screens...You get a feeling you're getting more with a larger screen."