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Small tablets losing to phablets: iPad Mini-sized models getting hit

Smaller tablets like the iPad are under assault from smartphones, says NPD DisplaySearch.

iPad Mini: small tablets are getting hit the hardest, says NPD DisplaySearch Apple

Small tablets are colliding with large smartphones, with tablets in general coming out the loser, according to market researcher NPD DisplaySearch.

Global shipments of tablets -- which DisplaySearch calls "tablet PCs" -- declined year to year for the first time in the first quarter of 2014, DisplaySearch said on Wednesday. The research firm did not break out specific year-to-year numbers, however.

"Competition between 5.5 [inch] and larger smartphones and 7 - 7.9 [inch] tablet PCs will reduce demand for tablet PCs through 2018," said Hisakazu Torii, a DisplaySearch analyst in a statement.

The "unit share" for tablets between 7 and 7.9 inches peaked at 58 percent in 2013, but "will gradually decline in 2014 and beyond," Torii said.

Though DisplaySearch mentions no specific tablet by brand name, the 7.9-inch size is dominated by Apple's iPad Mini, while 7-inch models include Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7.

Apple is expected to bring out a 5.5-inch phablet, aka large smartphone, later this year. Samsung already has an arsenal of phablets that it is selling, including the 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega and 5.7-inch Galaxy Note.

As the market for smaller tablets shrinks, tablet suppliers will move to larger sizes, with shipments of models ranging from 8 inches up to 10.9 inches overtaking smaller 7-inch-class models by 2018, DisplaySearch said.

"In addition...11 [inch] and larger tablets will exceed 10% of the market by 2018," the research firm said.