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Why We’ll Finally See an Apple ‘iPhablet’

Apple can’t ignore the growing phablet market any longer

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The late Apple (AAPL) cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs was famously disdainful of small tablets, large smartphones and everything in between. “No tablet can compete with mobility of a smartphone. Pocket size tablets are tweeners.”

Still, despite Jobs’ strong feelings on the subject, small tablets soon overtook bigger models as top-sellers forcing AAPL to follow its competitors with the iPad Mini.

The same scenario seems likely to play out with pocket-sized smartphone/tablet hybrids, or “phablets.” Apple seems all but certain to release two iPhone 6 models later this year, and one of these larger iPhones is expected to be really big.

In other words, we’re likely getting an iPhablet.

Samsung Galaxy Note and the Phablet Market

iPhablet iPhone 6 from AAPL would compete against phablets like Galaxy Note
Source: Asus

While super-sized smartphones had been released before (primarily in Asian markets where the bigger device reduced the expense of buying both a smartphone and a tablet), it was Samsung (SSNLF) that went mass market with its Galaxy Note in 2011, officially kicking off the phablet craze.

North American reception to the Galaxy Note was decidedly guarded. This assessment from Gizmodo is actually on the mild side:

“Should You Buy It? Only if you have giant hands, bad eyesight, and watch an imperial crapton of video on your phone.”

Despite critical disdain, the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note was a success, selling 10 million units within a year. The latest Galaxy Note 3 (now at 5.7-inches) hit 10 million in just two months. Upping the ante, the company also put out the Galaxy Mega, a 6.3-inch phablet.

Other smartphone manufacturers from Sony (SNE) to LG are on the “bigger is better” bandwagon, and even Microsoft’s (MSFT) Nokia division has a phablet in the Lumia 1520.

And global phablet shipments just keep rising. Juniper Research pegged them at 20 million in 2013 and expects those numbers to hit 120 million by 2018.

That’s a huge, growing market that simply can’t be ignored.

Just as 7-inch tablets like the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire eventually forced AAPL to react with the iPad Mini, the time has come for an iPhablet to combat the likes of the Galaxy Note 4, which is expected to be released this fall.

What We Think We Know About iPhablet Specs

About the only things that all the rumor sites are able to agree on is that the larger of the two iPhone 6 models will be a 5.5-inch phablet and that this Apple iPhablet will be powered by a new A8 processor. Beyond that, these are the current front-runners for specs:

  • Taller, wider and thinner case with rounded edges similar to the iPod Touch
  • Optical image stabilization for the iPhone 6 camera, possible sensor bump to 10 MP
  • RAM bumped from 1 GB to 2 GB
  • Support for 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi
  • Display resolution at either 389ppi “Ultra Retina” 1920 x 1080 (Full HD); or 510ppi 2272 x 1280 (which would be more expensive and battery-draining but make scaling existing iOS apps easier for developers).

There’s also a possibility the iPhablet’s display could be protected by sapphire glass, the ultra-hard substance that AAPL has been investing heavily in through its partnership with GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT).

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