Phablets and wearables: Mass niches coming to a network near you

Deloitte’s annual TMT Predictions for 2014 focus on some consumer technologies that seem unlikely for the enterprise, but there may be reasons to prepare for them anyway

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When Deloitte’s Duncan Stewart asked the crowd at last week’s TMT Predictions in Toronto if they were considering buying a phablet, about a quarter of the roughly 1,000 attendees put up their hand.

Then he asked who wouldn’t be caught dead talking on a phablet. Everyone else’s hand shot into the air — mine included.

Why? I’d feel a bit ridiculous making a call on a phablet. And I can’t imagine trying to text on one while walking down the street with a coffee in my other hand (a bad habit I’m trying to get out of, but still …).

Deloitte’s director of research for TMT poked fun at the phablet’s awkward size —which is not quite a smartphone, not quite a tablet. But, it seems, phablets aren’t just another phad (pun intended).

It’s something Stewart refers to as the mass niche. “Even a minority of a significantly large market can be a really big thing,” he said.

Phablets might be a niche product, but it’s a niche that will make up 25 per cent of the global smartphone market this year, according to Deloitte’s 2014 Technology Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions report (though the numbers are more likely to be in the 15 to 20 per cent range in Canada, Stewart said).

Same goes for wearables, such as smart glasses, smart watches and even smart fitness bands. “All the buzz is about wearables,” said Stewart. But will they replace the smartphone or the PC? Not likely. Smart glasses, for example, are low-resolution, only display about five words and only work when tethered to a smartphone — and they’re not cheap.

But smart glasses, such as Google Glass, are expected to sell about 4 million units this year at around $500 a pop (Stewart is less convinced of the viability of smart watches, as am I, purely from a fashion standpoint). Another mass niche.

Though they were all the rage at CES earlier this month, I’m about as likely to wear smart glasses as I am to chat on a phablet. So why are these “niche” markets growing? Fashion sense aside, these technologies actually have some pretty cool applications in the enterprise.

Take phablets. The larger screen size (between 5 and 6.9 inches diagonally) has applications in vertical markets where a smartphone isn’t quite big enough — say, for salespeople or field workers who need a slightly larger screen to jot down notes or watch video, but still require voice.

And consider that in some languages, it’s much easier to type on a slightly larger screen — phablets are huge in China, Korea and Singapore.

Smart glasses, too, have some surprisingly practical applications. Research firm Gartner says the use of smart glasses has the potential to improve worker productivity in vertical markets such as manufacturing, field service, oil and gas, retail and healthcare.

Smart glasses with augmented reality and head-mounted cameras could help workers diagnose and fix a problem in the field, without having to bring in an expert. They could also capture and store video, which could be particularly useful for police officers and doctors.

But Deloitte also predicts that market adoption of PCs, tablets, TVs, computing gaming equipment and smartphones will plateau, due to market saturation. But that will free up more money for software, services and content, said Stewart.

If that’s the case, bandwidth becomes even more critical. Even if you’re not thinking about phablets and smart glasses just yet, it might be time to think about how your network is going to hold up as we enter into “the decade of software, services and content.”

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1 Comment

  1. I think the appeal of the phablet is having the largest possible device that will fit in my pocket. If I could roll up a tablet to put in my pocket, I would do that instead. Are there people who are really concerned about how they look when talking on the phone/phablet? (an activity that I do less and less of as time goes on anyway)

    David / 8 years ago