MADISON, Wis. — Forget puny displays of smartphones. Nokia is going after big screens.
The Finnish company showed off Tuesday (October 22) its first tablet (10-inch screen) and two six-inch screen "phablets" at its annual Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi.
The Lumia 2520 tablet, along with the Lumia 1520 and 1320 phablets, are reportedly among the last products Nokia developed to compete with Apple and Samsung before deciding to sell its handset business to Microsoft, according to Reuters.
Nokia is using the larger screen size of its phablet, based on Windows Phone operating system, for an extra column of live tiles that can be added to the phone. The company is also leveraging its strong camera technology and its signature bright colors to differentiate its new products from the competition.
Nokia's 6-inch HD phablet Lumia 1520 (Source: Nokia)
One could argue the bigger screen size of Nokia's phablets won't be the answer for the Finnish company struggling to make a dent in the US smartphone market.
Perhaps that's true.
But I contend that the screen size could matter as the line between tablets, phablets, and smartphones start to blur. Nokia's competition includes large-screen smartphones from Samsung and Apple, the latter scheduled to unveil slimmer, faster iPads on Tuesday.
While it may still take more time for US consumers to warm up to the idea of smartphones with a gigantic screen, it has already become all the rage in Asia.
Market researcher International Data Corporation (IDC) reported late August in its Asia/Pacific quarterly mobile phone tracker:
Smartphones with screen sizes of 5 to just under 7 inches, colloquially known as "phablets", overtook shipments of each of the portable PC and tablet device categories in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) in the second quarter of 2013.
IDC at that time said that device vendors shipped 25.2 million phablets in the second quarter of 2013, compared with 12.6 million tablets, and 12.7 million portable PCs. "Phablets made a significant jump, up by 100% quarter on quarter, and up 620% for the same quarter in 2012," the market research company said.
When I was visiting China more than 18 months ago, I was shocked to find more executives in China carrying Samsung's Galaxy Note (in addition to their regular smartphone for voice calls).
What has become clear since then is that the phablets are picking up in China and India, and those available in such regions are no longer limited to products from big-name suppliers such as Samsung. Instead, the low-cost local players in China have aggressively moved into the segment to offer big screens for less money.
With the launch of Apple's new iPad expected later today in addition to Nokia's latest tablet/phablets announcement, consumers will have an opportunity to rethink if what they want is a tablet or a phablet.
Any hint of cannibalization of tablets by phablets, if it ever happens in more mature markets such as the US, would be a big deal. It will be closely watched by many in the mobile device market.
Nokia's Lumia 1520 with accessory cover (Source: Nokia)