London - Global factory-level shipments of phablets, the cellular device that is larger than a smartphone but smaller than a tablet, will increase 10-fold in 2012 to 19.2 million compared with 2011, ABI Research said.
In 2015, global phablet shipments will hit 208 million.
In North America, phablet sales were non-existent in 2011 but will jump to 4.4 million in 2012 and rise to 55.5 million in 2016, the research and consulting company said.
ABI defines phablets as having a touchscreen between 4.6 to 5.5 inches in size.
A chief driver for phablet sales "is the amount of time people use their smartphones for web browsing, reading articles and newspapers on the go, or simply navigating their journeys," said senior analyst Joshua Flood. "The larger screen sizes make a significant difference to the user's experience when compared to conventional-sized touchscreens between 3.5 to 4 inches."
In addition, he said phablets provide an "attractive two-in-one device proposition," and he sees competition emerging between the larger smartphone form factors and smaller media tablets, whose screens are less than 7 inches.
The phablet market got off to a slow start, ABI said, but HTC, LG and Huawei will introduce phablet smartphones in 2012, joining Samsung's Galaxy Note and Nexus and the just-announced Samsung Galaxy S3.