Smartphones featuring larger displays, as well as lower-priced models targeted at the world's emerging markets, were showcased at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, in line with forecasts showing big gains to be made this year by units sporting bigger panels, according to insights from the IHS iSuppli Mobile & Emerging Displays and Technology service from information and analytics provider IHS.
Continuing the momentum of the CES show in Las Vegas earlier this year, the emphasis on larger-sized displays in smartphones the 2013 MWC event reflects the efforts of device and panel makers alike to expand product lines and also go into new market segments, especially developing countries. In particular, the weight being given to larger displays tracks with a growing trend among consumers expressing desire for bigger mobile devices in order to better view visual content. Shipments in 2013 of mobile handset displays sized 4-inches or greater likely to be used in smartphones are projected to reach 608.4 million units, up a remarkable 43 percent from 426.6 million last year.
MWC also showcased larger smartphones that boasted high-resolution displays exceeding 300 pixels per inch (ppi)-as seen in the Optimus G Pro from LG Electronics, the latest flagship smartphone from the South Korean maker, featuring a 5.5-inch display with 1920 x 1080 pixel format at 401 ppi. LG also introduced a lower-resolution smartphone in the midrange segment-the 4.3-inch Optimus F5, with a 540 x 960 resolution at 256 ppi.
Among the Chinese, Huawei Technologies unveiled its 4.3-inch Ascend P2, with a 1280 x 720 pixel format at 312 ppi; while rival ZTE showed off the giant 5.7-inch Grand Memo, with 1280 x 720 resolution at 258 ppi.
The low-end smartphones shown at MWC were aimed more at the growing economies of China, India, Vietnam, Brazil and Russia. Opportunities in the mobile handset market are booming in these countries, and many handset makers are extending their product portfolio to stay competitive against low-end units made by the Chinese. Finnish maker Nokia, for instance, used the MWC event to announce what it said was "the world's cheapest smartphone," the Nokia 105, bearing a $20 price tag and featuring a 1.45-inch thin-film-transistor display with 128 x 128 pixel format at 129 ppi. Nokia also featured lower-entry models for its Lumia smartphone line in the form of the Lumia 520, which comes with a 4-inch, 800 x 480 display at 233 ppi, priced at $180.
Tablets feature voice calling-just like phones
Also showcased at MWC this year were tablets with features such as voice calling and thinner profiles, further narrowing the difference between tablets and large-sized smartphones. The Galaxy Note 8 from Samsung Electronics, for instance, is an 8-inch tablet with 1280 x 800 pixel format at 189 ppi that also supports voice-calling features like a smartphone. Asus from Taiwan introduced the Fonepad, with a 7-inch display and 1280 x 800 pixel format at 216 ppi, including built-in call capacity.
For its part, Sony announced the 10.1-inch, water-resistant Xperia Tablet Z with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 at 189 ppi, featuring its Mobile Bravia Engine 2 that the company says increases contrast and improves image detail in displays. While other tablets in the market with a similar display size-such as the Apple iPad 4, Google Nexus 10, and Barnes & Noble Nook-all had thickness measurements ranging from 8.9 to 11.4 millimeters, Sony's Xperia featured a thinner profile at just 6.9 millimeters.
With display panels for smartphones trending toward larger sizes, and given the inclusion of voice calling in tablets similar to phones due to consumers' growing demand for all-in-one devices, both smartphones and tablet makers are expected to apply increased focus toward the development of the phablet segment, in a market that is expected to expand this year, IHS iSuppli believes.
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