Talking On Tablets On The Rise In Asia

The phone-sized tablet — aka the phablet — was born in Asia, so it’s fitting that the region is now apparently driving a trend for talking on even larger slabs of glass and plastic. Aka: ‘I’m on the pad phone.’

Analyst IDC says tablets with a screen of 7 inches or larger are increasingly shipping with cellular voice capabilities — and getting increasing traction the Asia/Pacific region, excluding Japan (APeJ), pushing past the 25 per cent mark in the second quarter of this year, up from around 15 per cent in Q1.

According to its Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker report, some 13.8 million tablets were shipped in the APeJ region in Q2 2014, of which around 3.5 million units had voice calling over cellular networks as an option built-in to the device.

So, to be clear, it’s not actually tracking whether people are talking on their tablets — but more vendors are adding cellular capabilities to tablets and more of these voice enabled slates are being shipped (ergo the implication is why would growing numbers of vendors be including a feature if it’s not being used/asked for?).

IDC says cellular voice enabled tablet shipments in Q2 equate to more than 60% growth, year-on-year in unit terms, for this category of slate — all of which happen to be Android-based.

And while it notes that tablets with cellular voice capabilities aren’t new — having been around for multiple years, since the first generation of Samsung Tabs — it says it’s tracked a surge in shipments and vendors since the beginning of this year. Ergo talking on tablets is on the march.

Growth is especially strong in some emerging markets, such as India and Indonesia, according to IDC, which says shipments of cellular voice capable tablets in those markets have come close to a 50 per cent share of overall shipments.

What’s driving this massive phone trend? The analyst points to the desire for people in emerging markets to have one converged device for multiple use-cases as one driver — especially given the cost savings involved. So cheap Android slates are evidently cannibalizing some mobile phone sales.

“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” screen on it. It also helps that these devices are quite affordable, playing in the entry-to-mainstream price bands in most markets,” notes IDC analyst  Avinash K. Sundaram in a statement.

Sundaram adds that he expects the trend of Android tablets used as a single converged mobile device in emerging markets to continue to gather momentum, driven by the cost advantage.

So maybe Asus was onto something with its 2011 Padfone tablet-phone hybrid, although the effort they went to to fit a handset into a tablet-sized screen-dock was likely wasted — failing to foresee that if the larger hardware is capable of calls and cheap enough to buy then users are happy to talk on the big slab. No smaller gizmo required.

[Image by Cheon Fong Liew via Flickr]