'Phablet' sales suggest bigger is better for mobile screens

Global shipments of 'phablets' are predicted to increase tenfold this year over last

Remember when critics said the iPad was just an oversized iPhone?

Its wild success proved doubters wrong, and it now appears to have sparked a new trend: the swelling size of mobile devices.

“Phablets” are devices with screens that are larger than those on a mobile phone (normally 3.5 to four inches diagonally) but smaller than on a tablet (the iPad is 9.7 inches). While some might call phablets the Capri pants of technology, there is evidence the devices are more than a passing fad.

Despite a slow start in 2011, global shipments are predicted to increase tenfold this year over last, according to a recent report by research firm ABI, and sell at a rate of 208 million annually by 2015. Though the phablet’s dimensions are awkwardly sized for a phone, the screen makes web browsing and video watching more convenient.

Samsung, LG and Panasonic are all selling phablets. There is growing speculation the upcoming iPhone 5 will have a larger screen than the current model.

These bigger devices could have another side effect: the return of the stylus (the pens used to draw on screens). Last week Apple filed a patent for a new stylus, the iPen. If any company can resurrect a piece of technology that critics deem outdated and unwanted, it’s Apple.

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