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Does The Rise Of The Phablet Signal That Bigger Is Now Better?


Written by  Angelo Racoma | 17 January 2013
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PhabletIt has happened before. The transistor and integrated circuits brought in the era of miniaturization. Almost all electronic devices became smaller. After a certain point, these small wonders of electronics suddenly started growing bigger again, but with more power and features. It is happening again, this time with smartphones.

Miniature tablets – or oversized smartphones, depending on how you look at them – are growing in popularity. Leading the charge is Samsung which started off with the Galaxy Note in 2011. The large 5.3 inch screen Note gave way to the slightly larger Note 2, with its 5.5 inch screen.

This trend has given birth to the term “phablet” which is a combination of the words “phone” and “tablet.”

Another notable brand that got bigger just before the holidays was the Apple iPhone 5, at 4 inches diagonal, a half-inch larger than its predecessor. With the iPhone, though, the phone only increased in size vertically, keeping the form factor still slim enough to be held and used with one hand. As such, the latest iPhone is not necessarily part of this growing set of devices that fall under the phablet category.

At the recently concluded CES, there were other manufacturers which came out with their own phone-cum-tablets. Sony released a 5-inch smartphone, while Huawei had a 6.1-inch model, the Ascend Mate. HTC already has its Butterfly. Samsung did not actually launch the first phablet, since Dell launched its Streak in 2010 as an oversized smartphone.

In most instances, it is the question of function-over-form, which is driving mobile phone makers to use increasingly larger screens.

Here are a few benefits of these so-called phablets.

  • User interface improvements. Websites and apps can be displayed better. There is more screen real estate for apps, thereby reducing the need to scroll or swipe. Programming wise, a larger screen would also allow for more interactions between apps, as well as more gestures for navigating the phone.
  • Better readability. A larger screen would also result in less eye-strain. Reading a web page or any document, a large screen would allow more text on the screen, and larger size fonts. Videos would also display better.
  • Unique applications. Samsung already has its S-Note application as part of its built-in suite of apps in the Note and Note 2. These take advantage of the S-Pen, which react both to pressure and other inputs. Note users can take down notes, draw or write as if writing on actual paper.

But with its advantages, a phablet comes with inherent disadvantages. They’re usually too big to be used one-handed. They might not fit in most pockets comfortably. And phablets might cause some strain when used as an actual telephone against one’s ear.

There is no simple rule when it comes to the ideal mobile phone size. For now, 5-inch phablets seem to be the rage, although Huawei’s Ascend Mate is trying to break barriers with its 6.1-inch form factor. Apple is not likely to release a phablet anytime soon, but with its latest iPad Mini selling like hotcakes, it might be only a matter of time until iPad Mini with cellular users can use their device for making calls.

Angelo Racoma

Angelo Racoma

J. Angelo Racoma is a journalist and community manager with a keen eye for emerging standards and technologies. Angelo writes for ToolsJournal covering Technology and Startups. Besides ToolsJournal he covers startups for e27.sg, Android and Google at Android Authority, the APAC tech scene for Tech Wire Asia, and enterprise news at CMSWire.

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