The HTC Butterfly, an international version of the J Butterfly released in Japan. (Photo/Wang Chueh-wei)
Hybrid mobile devices, including smartphones and tablet computers sized between 5-7 inches, are forecast to gain strong growth in volume during the next three years, British bank Barclays said Wednesday.
The bank estimates a compound annual growth rate of 65%-70% in the volume of these large-screen handsets from 2013 to 2015, driven by hardware upgrades in central processing units and displays, and pricing as low as US$200 to US$350 without subsidies.
The stretch of the global long-term evolution (LTE) 4G network could also raise the bandwidth for faster multimedia mobility, increasing the popularity of phone-tablet hybrid devices, dubbed "phablets," Barclays said in a note to clients.
"Not only do we expect strong unit growth over the next three years, but we see phablets changing the competitive dynamic of the mobile device market," said Dale Gai, a Taipei-based analyst at Barclays.
Samsung, the world's top maker of phones using the Android operating system, appears to be the early winner in this hybrid category due to its display component strength, he wrote in the note.
Moreover, Gai said, the hybrid category will trigger a new product cycle and bring more orders in the first half of 2013 for laggards in the mobile market such as HTC and LG Electronics.
He forecast that smartphones over 5 inches will account for 15% of total smartphone sales in 2013 and 20% in 2015, compared with 5% currently.
Samsung is expected to ship 97 million units of over-5-inch smartphones in 2013 and remain the top maker in this category, accounting for 68% of the overall market of 142.6 million units, Barclays said.
LG is likely to rank second with 11.5 million units, or an 8.1% market share, followed by HTC's 10.8 million units and 7.6% share, the bank said.
Taoyuan-based HTC, which had a rough year in 2012 with falling revenues and sliding market share, has seen its HTC J Butterfly flagship model enjoy brisk sales since its launch in Japan Dec. 10, according to local reports.
Known as the world's first smartphone with a 5-inch full-HD display, the HTC J Butterfly replaced Apple Inc.'s iPhone 5 as the top seller on the sales rankings of Japanese operator KDDI for the week ending Dec. 16, the reports said.
Market analysts said the high-end model is part of HTC's efforts to regain its footing in a market increasingly dominated by Apple and Samsung.
In the third quarter of last year, Samsung continued its lead in the global smartphone market with a 31.3% share, followed by Apple at 15%, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion at 4.3% and China's ZTE at 4.2%, according to data compiled by International Data Corp.
HTC shipped 7.3 million smartphones and remained the world's fifth-largest smartphone vendor, with a 4% market share, the research firm said.