Phablets to flood smartphone market in coming years -- report

Big-screened phones will account for more than 20 percent of mobile devices shipped by 2019, according to Juniper Research.

Apple's iPhone 6 Plus helped the company score record earnings last quarter. Sarah Tew

Bigger is better, according to a new Juniper Research report that says phablets are destined to become even more popular over the next several years.

More than 400 million phablets will ship in 2019, five times the the estimated 138 million to be shipped this year, the report said. As such, phablets will account for more than 20 percent of mobile devices shipped in the next four years.

The phablet is defined by Juniper as a handset with a screen size of 5.5 inches to 6.9 inches that can be held while making phone calls -- but not necessarily for an extended period of time. Big-screened smartphones have surged in popularity among consumers. That's one reason why Apple launched the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus last year -- to reclaim customers and market share lost to Android vendors.

Thanks to sales of both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple scored record earnings last quarter, raking in $18 billion in profits, the world record in corporate profitability among public companies, according to Standard & Poor's.

But it won't be high-priced phablets that will drive the market, according to Juniper.

Budget devices will bring phablets into the mainstream around the world, Juniper said. Sporting ever larger screen sizes, many flagship smartphones will be phablets by default over the next two to three years. And though phablets are still phones at their core, many people are using them more as media and gaming devices.

The surge in demand for phablets will continue to bite into sales of small-screened tablets. As such, Juniper expects tablet adoption to weaken in regions such as China, where people do most of their computing on smartphones.

Many consumers are finding similarities among laptops, phablets and smartphones in terms of power and functionality, another factor that plays into the demand for big-screen phones.

"The same chips can now power any mobile device, from smartphones to laptops," says James Moar, the report's author. "Hardware capabilities are blurring, with devices like cellular-connected tablets, phablets and smartphones with console-level graphics and sound systems becoming much more common. This shifts device design parameters to budgets and use cases, rather than technological features."

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