Size matters to Asian smartphone users

More consumers in Asia are picking up 7-inch and above tablets with cellular voice capabilities, as they turn to single mobile devices to make calls, watch movies, and text.

Where smartphones are concerned, it appears size matters--or doesn't matter, depending on how you look at it--to consumers in Asia who have no qualms about putting a 7-inch tablet to their ear to take a call.

Larger devices with cellular voice functions are gaining traction in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, where they account for 25 percent of the market in second-quarter 2014, according to IDC's quarterly tablet tracker report released Wednesday. The research firm categorizes devices with screen sizes smaller than 7-inch as mobile phones, and those larger than 7-inch as tablets.

It noted that phablets , or large smartphones, had proven popular among consumers in the region where its shipment volume surpassed notebooks and tablets last year. In second-quarter 2014, some 13.8 million units of tablets were shipped in the Asia-Pacific region, almost 25 percent of which--or 3.5 million units--were equipped with cellular voice capabilities. This reflected a 60 percent year-on-year growth in unit shipment for this device category, which also comprised only Android products.

"Tablets that allow voice calls over cell networks have been around for a while now, as the first generation of Samsung Tabs did have that option, albeit only activated through a Bluetooth headset," said Avinash K. Sundaram, IDC's Asia-Pacific senior market analyst of client devices. 

More vendors started offering vice-enabled tablets, which also saw a surge in volume shipped since the start of 2014, IDC said, adding that this device category account for almost 50 percent share of the overall markets in some emerging countries, notably, India and Indonesia.

Sunaram said: "This shift highlights the sustained interest among consumers, at least in emerging markets, to have a single mobile device for all their needs--be it watching movies and soap operas, taking pictures, texting, or making calls-- even if the device has a huge 7-inch screen on it.

"It also helps that these devices are quite affordable, playing in the entry-to-mainstream price bands in most markets," he said, and the IDC analyst is expecting this "Asian love for bigger screens" to continue, as they satisfy consumer demand for a single converged mobile device that offers value for value.

IDC tablet tracker