The rise of modern technology arguably began in the 1980s, with such milestones as the first personal computer being sold in 1981; the first CD CD-ROM being released with the ability to store 270 000 pages of text on a single disk in 1985; and the first Internet domain name was registered in 1985. 
The 1990s saw the rise of the mobile phone, and the 2000s the rise of the smartphone – technology that combined a personal computer with a mobile phone, says Larking Huang, GM of Huawei Device South Africa.
Throughout the early years of mobile phone technology, status was determined by how small your phone was. With the rise of the smartphone, however, the days when tiny phones held appeal are long gone.
In today’s mobile world, bigger is definitely better.
The reason for this is simple: phones are getting larger because what we use them for is changing.
Users don’t just need them to make a phone call, we now touch the screen directly in order to easily access our e-mails, social networks, browse the Web, message friends, family and co-workers, stream video – smartphones make all this and more possible.
Research also indicates that touch phones are increasing in popularity with consumers, as these products have decreased in price, and are therefore accessible to a larger market.
The move to offer larger-display smartphones is a strong reflection of the efforts of both device and panel makers to differentiate their products in an increasingly competitive market, not only in South Africa but globally as well. Our latest research also indicates that 2 to 3-inch displays are becoming less prevalent in the market, and the growth of 4 to 5-inch and larger displays are increasing rapidly.
In most cases, the closest mobile screen to us is our smartphone. However, many of us go to our tablets to access content or the Internet, as the screen is much bigger and easier to use. Most people in emerging markets like Africa cannot afford both a smartphone and a tablet, even with some tablets going for low prices. In addition, carrying two devices at all times is just not feasible for most.
In this era of increasing economic pressure, we have found that customers are open to the benefits of a device which fulfils more than one function, and we expect to see this trend develop with further innovation within this field.
In a nutshell, smartphones are becoming tablets. We call this phenomenon the “Phablet” – a device that combines the functionality of a tablet with the convenience and portability of a smartphone for a variety of entertainment and business needs.
Phablets are typically enhanced for mobile Web access and multimedia consumption, and many of the benefits larger screen phones bring are inherent in the design – bigger area to view media, watch movies, take notes and read e-mails or documents.
In the device market, phablets are increasingly becoming a big segment. According to IHS iSuppli’s Mobile Handset Displays report, shipments of phablets are forecast to reach 60,4-million units in 2013. That number is up 136% from 25,6-million last year, with shipments predicted to hit 146-million by 2016. We expect this to be similarly reflected in South Africa.
Phablets are larger than regular smartphones, but smaller and thinner than tablets, making them more convenient for users to carry or keep in their pocket. Screen sizes range between five and seven inches, however, based on our extensive consumer research, we have found that a 6,1-inch smartphone display is the sweet spot for the moment.
These phablets will include high-end models, as manufacturers increasingly launch low-cost versions offering consumers a high screen-to-device ratio which allows them to enjoy games and videos, whilst at the same time adhering to consumers with particular budgets.
The device sector is constantly evolving to remain competitive in this fast-paced market. With that said, smartphones will not disappear any time soon, but you can expect them to consistently increase in size and functionality.
For example, the Huawei Ascend Mate features a whopping 6,1-inch HD display and battery enhancing technology. This means that this particular phablet can run for two days on a single charge and it can be used to charge other accessories and devices – an especially useful tool for when the power goes out due to load shedding this winter.
Smartphones and tablets, or the phablet, should be within reach, no matter who users are or what they want from their handset.