Lenovo Phab Plus straddles between smartphone and tablet

  • Launches affordable, large 6.8 inch smartphone-cum-tablet, confident of success
  • About filling gap in the market but will not move sales significantly, analyst says

Lenovo Phab Plus straddles between smartphone and tablet

SIZE doesn’t matter, according to the old saying. But the folks at Lenovo Group Ltd certainly seem to have a contrarian view.

After all, the Beijing, China-based maker of PCs, laptops and smartphones has just introduced one of the largest smartphones in the market - the massive 6.8-inch Lenovo Phab Plus, at the recent Berlin IFA consumer electronics show that ran from Sept 2 to 7.

And never mind that name. Fact is, the Phab Plus has made its way to Malaysia and is expected to be a hit among those looking to get into the ‘phablet’ space, declared Lenovo Malaysia country general manager Khoo Hung Chuan.

“The Phab Plus caters to those who want the best of both worlds - those who are carrying both tablets and smartphones today, and who want to fold those two [functions] into only one device,” he said during the launch on Sept 21.

The Phab Plus is an obvious play on the word phablet -- a shortened combination of the words ‘phone’ and ‘tablet.’ It represents a two-in-one device which typically has a large enough screen to be considered as a tablet, while having the functions of a smartphone like being able to make calls or send short text messages.

Lenovo Phab Plus straddles between smartphone and tablet

Spec-wise, the dual-SIM Phab Plus features 32GB of storage; a 13-megapixel (MP) main camera; a 5MP front-facing camera; a 3,500mAh battery and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core (eight core) processor with 2GB of RAM.

Compatible with both left and right-handed users, users of the Phab Plus can double-tap to turn their screen on, long-press anywhere on the screen to take a photo, shake to lock, call up a one-handed keyboard that shrinks and snaps to their hand position, as well as answer calls through a series of voice-activated prompts, the company noted in its press release.

Other goodies include a screen that supports high-definition (HD 1080p) content, an all aluminium unibody design, a 326-pixels per inch IPS screen, dual flash -- and possibly the best feature: support for Dolby Atmos playback, which many other devices do not have.

However, the back camera on the Phab Plus does not have the more advanced optical image stabilisation feature, which Khoo said was not included in part due to cost factors.

The Phab Plus retails for RM1,199 (US$275), which is pretty good value for money given its size and features and is arguably the best ‘feature’ the device possesses. For a full look at the specs, go here.

Lukewarm response

When the Phab Plus was first announced at IFA, there were a lot of sceptics who were critical of the device, especially the name - Phab Plus. Two sites, The Verge and Android Central called it “weird” while CNET nominated it under its “Wacky and Tech Oddities” site for devices introduced at IFA.

Still, the Phab Plus has its fans with Digital Trends calling it “a most phabulous phablet.”

A quick straw poll amongst journalists attending the the Malaysian launch yielded a less than enthusiastic response though. Few indicated that they would buy the device due to the sheer size of the device and that most would struggle to fit the Phab Plus in a standard men’s size slacks or jeans pocket.

“For a couple of hundred more, I could get the new Huawei Honor 7 or the Mi Note,’ which to me is a better deal,” said one journalist.

READ ALSO: Huawei’s Honor 7 smartphone goes up for pre-order in Malaysia, on sale Sept 28

The only plus point going for the Phab Plus is that it’s priced very competitively, as at RM1,199 (US$275), it would certainly appeal to those wanting to get more bang for their buck, said another journalist.

When asked if the size is a stumbling block to market acceptance, Khoo claimed that Lenovo is confident that sales of such a device will cater to some segments of the market, especially those wanting to just carry one device with two functions.

“We feel there will be some in the market who will take to this device such as those wanting to consolidate their tablet and a smartphone, as well as those who like gaming and multimedia functions,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines after the launch.

“When I first started using it, I too felt it was big but after a while, I got used to it,” he argued. “Today, I even use the Phab Plus to display my Powerpoint presentations to my customers.”

Arguing that fewer people today are actually talking on the phones, Khoo said having a larger screen benefits them as they are communicating differently today compared with the past when more people held a phone close to their ears whereas these days, more people hold it upright while typing on it.

“The Phab Plus will suit this class of people and we believe we will be successful with it,” he declared.

What’s behind the size?

Lenovo Phab Plus straddles between smartphone and tabletNeil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research (pic right), noted that the awkward size of the Phab Plus as a device will make it function more as a tablet rather than a smartphone.

“Our research shows 4.9-inch is the current sweet spot in smartphones globally,” he said via email to questions from DNA. “Furthermore in Malaysia, the demand for 6-inch phablets is even lower than global average at just 1% of the total market.

Asked what is Lenovo’s long term strategy behind introducing such a device, Shah said one possible reason is that Lenovo might have identified a gap in the 6 to 7-inch smart devices segment, which is a sector that has fewer competitors in the market.

 

“With the Phab Plus, we believe Lenovo aims to own this segment targeting corporate professionals by positioning it as a device that is able to offer a true smartphone and tablet experience in an all-in-one form factor,” Shah argued.

“However, the demand in this segment is extremely low for now, and only corresponds to roughly less than 3% of the current global smartphone market.

Shah also said that while Lenovo is banking on this affordable device to hit the sweet spot of a phablet, it will remain a niche market and won’t move the needle for Lenovo in terms of sales.

“I believe it’s being used as a marketing ploy to position itself as a broad portfolio player in Malaysian consumers’ minds,” he argued, adding that Lenovo’s broad aim is to be a consumer device maker of all sizes ranging from 3.5-inch smartphones right up to 55-inch TVs.

Related stories:

Lenovo says it has big plans for Malaysia

Samsung updates large-screen smartphone portfolio amid slowing sales

DNA Test: A middleweight fight for the ‘Note’ phablet crown

DNA Test: Xiaomi Mi Note balances price performance with style

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