Tablets are dead… Long live the Phablet?

A lack of new product releases in the first half of the year from market leaders such as Apple had forced IDC to trim its expectations, while the growing popularity of large-screen smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note, had also hindered growth of the larger format.

The rise of the “phablet”, as smartphones with bigger screens are colloquially called, has been one of the trends of the consumer electronics sector this year.

IDC expects 227.4 million tablets to be sold this year, lower than its initial forecast of 229.3 million, rising to 407 million units by 2017.

However, it forecasts that growth will slow in North America, Western Europe and Japan, with volume growth driven in China, the Middle East and Latin America. Tablets developed for specific industries, such as education, are predicted to grow to a fifth of all sales by 2017.

IDC said that new categories such as “wearable devices” are expected to divert consumer spending — referring to the growing number of exercise bracelets such as the Jawbone UP and the Nike FuelBand hitting the market.

There is also nascent demand for so-called smartwatches. Samsung is rumoured to be preparing to launch its Galaxy Gear smartwatch next week, and Sony’s SmartWatch 2 launches on September 9.

Apple appointed Paul Deneve, the former chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, the French fashion house, last month to head up a “special projects” division. Apple-watchers claim that this is developing a smartphone-like iWatch for the company.