'Phablets' not going away as IHS predicts shipments to double in 2013

Love 'em or hate 'em, the new "phablet" category might be here to stay based on a new analyst report.

As tablets continue to challenge desktops and laptops in worldwide PC shipments, there's a new category poised to give them all a run for their money: phablets.

Basically, the de facto definition of a "phablet" is that it is a smartphone and tablet hybrid. The dimensions are a little trickier, but it could sport a display size anywhere from five to roughly under seven inches diagonally.

After the demise of five-inch tablets like the Dell Streak, it was all but assumed that this sliver of the tablet spectrum just wasn't going to work.

Now it looks like the concept has been reborn simply by super-sizing smartphones -- and it could work.

According to market intelligence firm IHS iSuppli, phablet shipments are expected to more than double to 60.4 million units worldwide this year -- up from 25.6 million in 2012.

Based on other analyst reports (and just how small this market is), this is not going to present much competition or any problems for more traditional (so to speak) tablets and smartphones.

Honestly, given that the dimensions in the category are a bit fuzzy, it could be considered a grey area as to which devices already qualified as phablets.

But going forward into 2013, we can expect at least two devices from two of China's largest mobile giants to lead the way: ZTE with the Grand S and Huawei's Ascend Mate.

Aside from UltraHD 4K displays, it's arguable that the 6.1-inch phablet introduced by Huawei was the most talked about individual device at the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas.

IHS analysts listed a few more phablet contenders, resting largely (no pun intended) on competitive pricing to undercut smaller smartphones and larger tablets.

Vinita Jakhanwal, director of small and medium displays at IHS iSuppli, added in the report that larger displays are likely just the next way for mobile device makers to get their products to stand out in a crowded market.

With consumers demanding more lifelike viewing experiences, the trend to offer such devices makes perfect sense, especially considering the increase in rich content that is being made available on smartphones.

Pricing might make the biggest difference here -- especially in the face of the argument that a phablet could replace a smartphone. It's hard to imagine that many consumers want to hold up a device with a six-inch screens to their ears when making calls.

But if you can knock two devices out in one and save a few hundred bucks, maybe there's something to be said for that.