Hewlett-Packard is getting back into the smartphone market with a pair of 6-inch and 7-inch "phablets" that at least initially will be offered in India.
The unveiling of the Android-based devices—the Slate6 VoiceTab and Slate7 VoiceTab—comes days after reports began surfacing that HP would soon make a re-entry into a smartphone space the company exited in 2011, when it ditched plans for smartphones based on the webOS operating system as well as the webOS-running TouchPad tablets.
HP already is selling new tablets, but the VoiceTabs are the company's return to smartphones. The devices also are the latest example of the trend that shows tablets and smartphones slowly inching toward each other as users look to get one system that can do the work of both. It will create what Ron Coughlin, senior vice president of HP's Consumer Personal Systems Group, called "voice tablets."
"Consumers are looking to consolidate their phones and tablets, which is propelling the voice tablet market," Coughlin said in a statement. "This is an exciting new category that represents a meaningful growth opportunity for HP. Our HP Slate VoiceTab provides consumers with a high-quality product at a great value."
Bob O'Donnell, IDC's program vice president of clients and displays, told eWEEK in September 2013 that the trend in tablets is toward smaller screens—away from 10-inch models and toward systems as small as seven inches. Meanwhile, screen sizes on smartphones are getting larger, expanding beyond five inches. Eventually these hybrid phablets will do all the jobs that users run on their smartphones and tablets.
"If I've got a five-and-a-half-inch smartphone, why the hell would I buy a tablet?" O'Donnell asked.
For HP, the new Slate VoiceTabs give the company a way to get back into the booming mobile device space with a new form factor that will help it differentiate from other device makers, a particularly important move considering the large numbers of Android-based smartphones and tablets that are on the market.
CEO Meg Whitman and other HP executives have said for more than a year that the company needed to make another run at the smartphone space. Whitman said in an interview with Fox Business News in September 2012 that it was particularly important because in many emerging markets, smartphones were the first computing devices many people would use.
"There will be countries around the world where people many never own a tablet or a PC or a desktop," she said. "They'll do everything on a smartphone. We're a computing company. We have to take advantage of that form factor."
HP officials were short on details about the VoiceTabs, which they said will be available in India in February. They run on an unnamed quad-core processor, and come with a 3G Dual SIM Dual Standby feature for both voice connectivity and performance.
Users can use email, surf the Web, play games and stream content on the systems, while also making and receiving voice calls. They include front-facing stereo speakers, a new IPS Panel for better viewing angles, color and touch capabilities and high-definition front and rear cameras.