In a DisplaySearch Analyst Blog, David Hsieh observes that by releasing the iPad mini in late 2012, Apple has tacitly acknowledged that smaller size (7-9-inch) tablet computers will become a larger market segment than the larger 9.7-inch and 10.1-inch. Hsieh says key aspects to the smaller tablet devices’ surging popularity are their more attractive prices and holdability in one hand rather than two, noting that data published in the latest DisplaySearch Monthly TFT LCD Shipment Database indicate that in January 2013, tablet PC panel shipments shifted dramatically toward smaller screen sizes.
On the other hand, shipments of 9.7-inch tablet PC panels collapsed, falling from 7.4 to 1.3M, and shipments of 10.1-inch panels grew only slightly, while 7-inch and 7.9-inch panel shipments grew rapidly, from 12 to 14M, with the January panel shipment data possibly a bellwhether for the year. Hsieh observes that while Apple had planned to sell 40M iPad minis (7.9-inch) and 60M iPads (9.7-inch) in 2013, the reality seems to be trending toward the reverse, with the iPad mini so far being more popular than the iPad, with Apple rumored to have revised its projections to a ration of 55M iPad minis and 33M full-sized iPads in 2013.
However, the market hasn’t settled out to any sort of stable pattern yet, with a wild card being how much 7.x-inch tablet computer sales will be addected by 5-6-inch smartphone “phablet” sales? Hsieh suggests that as smartphones move to larger sizes such as 5-6-inch, phablets – converged smartphone and tablet PC devices – could cannibalize the 7.x-inch tablet computer market.
‘Apple Is Losing The Screen-size War’
Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt says that even though it never attends, Apple is always a presence at Mobile World Congress held every year since 2009 in Barcelona.
However, while in past years Apple’s iPhone platform has set the bar by which other smartphone vendors measured themselves, that’s not the case this year. Elmer-DeWitt cites Jefferies analyst Peter Misek in a “flash note” to clients contending that 4.7-inch to 5.5-inch are becoming the new standard screen size for mobile devices, and noting: “We think this demonstrates how badly Apple is losing the screen-size war. And while this has primarily been a high-end trend so far, we think that it could be even more pronounced as it moves to the low end and consumers do not have the money to buy a smartphone and a tablet so they migrate to the phablet form factor.”