Are “Phablets” The Future? No. Could They Sell 208 Million? Why Not?

The word “phablet” is ridiculous. Apparently it’s meant to be a merger between “phone” and “tablet” and refer to devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note that I would have just thought of as a really big phone.

I think they look a little ridiculous, which is one reason I was skeptical of this ABI Research call that the product segment is going to expand massively in the near future and we’ll be shipping 208 million phablets by 2015. The basic issue is pocket constraints. There’s a clear value to making a device that’s small enough to fit comfortably in your pocket. When Veronica Mars was wielding her T-Mobile Sidekick and one or two of my friends owned one, I thought it was totally amazing state of the art technology but still too big for my pocket.

But thinking harder, is 208 million even all that many sales? There are six billion people on the planet. Saying that three or four years from now half of them will have smart phones is aggressive, but not insane. And saying that 7-8 percent of that 3 billion smartphone market will consist of phones that most people consider impractically large? Sure, why not. It’s a big world and there’s room for weird form factors out there.