Samsung has a thing for copying Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). This we know. However, if there's one thing that the South Korean company deserves some credit for, it's proving that there is indeed a market for devices in the "phablet" category. Should Apple copy Samsung next and launch an enormous iPhablet?
Many Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android OEMs have been following the trend toward larger display sizes, and Samsung has been leading the way as the current Android champion. In March, Samsung said it had reached 5 million unit sales of its Galaxy Note device, which features a 5.3-inch display along with a stylus. Less than six months later, that figure climbed to 10 million units.
Due to the success of the first-generation Galaxy Note, Samsung figured that bigger was better and the subsequent Galaxy Note II boosted its screen size to 5.5 inches. Samsung has been out touting various figures related to the second-generation model over the past few months.
First, it said it moved 3 million units in the first 37 days, which was roughly three times as fast as the first Note. Less than a month alter, that figure climbed to 5 million units sold into the channel. Just today, Samsung has now sold its 1 millionth unit on its home turf of South Korea. Combined with the Galaxy S III, the Galaxy Note II looks like it'll be a hot seller this holiday season.
For large's sake
The Note II's success begs the question: When is a display too big? If bigger is inherently better, wouldn't 6-inch, 6.5-inch, or 7-inch displays be increasingly better? Didn't the Once-ler learn his lesson with biggering so that we wouldn't have to make the same mistakes?
The gravitation toward large objects is becoming stronger. For example, Huawei is preparing to release a 6.1-inch Ascend Mate with a 1080p display. Chances are that the OEM is going to officially unveil the device at the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, in Vegas next month, but exec Richard Yu couldn't contain his excitement and brandished the phablet in public earlier this month.
Apple tried to pre-emptively address this question when it decided to increase the iPhone 5's display to just 4 inches: "But if you go large for large's sake, you end up with a phone that feels oversize, awkward, and hard to use."
When does a smartphone become a phablet? When does a phablet become a tablet? If bigger is better, wouldn't a Nexus 7 the ultimate phone? After all, Google's tablet is entirely capable of using Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, services, including Google Voice, that can effectively make it function as a phone with a little bit of legwork and the acceptance of some trade-offs.
There's no clear answer here, but I'd say that phablet country starts around the 5-inch threshold and once you get to 7-inch displays you're in tablet territory.
The iPad Mini was a direct response to the tablet market trending toward smaller tablets, which makes it conceivable that Apple could similarly follow the smartphone market's move toward larger phones.
However, Apple would probably stick with its 4-inch display found in the iPhone 5 and new iPod touch for a couple years because it just made the transition. It's unlikely that Apple would introduce yet another resolution so soon, since it frequently calls out fragmentation as one of Android's biggest weaknesses.
Another possibility is that Apple will end up squashing the phablet trend. Consumers may remember a time when netbooks were all the rage and many wondered when Apple would enter the netbook market. Of course, now we know that Apple's response to the netbook was the iPad, which effectively single-handedly destroyed the netbook market. Will Cupertino do the same to the budding phablet market?
Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.