Hewlett Packard (HP) is jumping back into the smartphone pool (opens in new tab) in a big way with the release of two "phablets:" the 6-inch diagonal HP Slate6 VoiceTab and the 7-inch diagonal HP Slate7 VoiceTab. Both devices are powered by an unnamed quad-core processor backing voice-calling capabilities and Google's Android operating system.
"Consumers are looking to consolidate their phones and tablets, which is propelling the voice tablet market," said Ron Coughlin, senior vice president, Consumer Personal Systems Group, HP. "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."
At this point the hardware details are slim, but HP reports that the phablets sport HD front and rear cameras, an "innovative" new IPS panel for better viewing angles and more responsive touch, front-facing stereo speakers, and a 3G Dual SIM Dual Standby feature.
For now these two devices are launching in India in February 2014. When and if these devices head to other territories like Europe and the United States is unknown at this point. HP also did not disclose any pricing.
So why did HP choose India as a starting point for its smartphone market entry? In an interview with re/code, Ron Coughlin, VP for the consumer PC business, said that the market for phones and smart devices in India is growing.
"We see a need in India that we can meet," Coughlin said. "Consumers are looking for a way to consolidate devices. We think there's an opportunity to enter a growing market where there's an unmet need."
HP is also one of the top selling brands in India, so launching smartphones there makes sense. In fact, according to IDC, HP has a 32 percent market share in that country, well ahead of Lenovo, which has about a 14 percent market share and Dell with around 12 percent of the market.
"[In India], the predominant way that people buy their voice-enabled devices is without a service contract," Coughlin said. "We also have a great brand presence and a great go-to-market system there."
HP also chose India first because the devices tested well with Indian consumers; they had the "highest purchase intent." These tests were conducted up to four months ago, about the same time that rumors of HP working on a smartphone began to percolate.
"I won't say where or when, but you can expect us to do more in the coming months," he said. "We'll be talking about this in a more expansive way. But right now we're focused on a successful launch in India."
The interview coughed up additional hardware information. Both have 16 GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for 32 GB of additional storage. The display is 1280 x 720 on the 6-inch model and 1280 x 800 on the 7-inch model. The front-facing camera is 2MP, the rear camera is 5MP, and the OS of choice is Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean."