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What's the hype behind phablets? Won't a smartphone or tablet do?

Posted: , by Shaun Chatman (guest author)

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What's the hype behind phablets? Won't a smartphone or tablet do?
Phablets are a cross between smartphones and tablets that usually check in somewhere between five inches and 6.9 inches. A lot of people think that these mobile devices are little more than fads that will quickly disappear. Others love their phablets. What features are driving the hype between these devices?

Features people like in phablets

It's somewhat shocking when someone whips a 6.9-inch phone out of his pocket. How does that person get around with such a huge phone? Apparently there are plenty of people who don't find large phones cumbersome. In fact, they appreciate what big phones offer. A big screen is obviously attractive to a lot of people. When you have a bigger-than-average screen, you can:

  • Watch movies on the go
  • Browse the Internet easier
  • View photos without enlarging or distorting their sizes
  • See apps more easily
Hey, people love huge screens for their desktop computers. Why wouldn't they want big screens on their mobile devices, too?

Buyers also like feeling that they're getting more for their money. 2011's Galaxy Note, which has a 5.3-inch screen, doesn't cost much more than an iPhone or other smartphone. If you're the kind of person who wants to feel like he's gotten more out of his dollar, then the bigger phone looks like a good option. All it takes is a salesperson to show you how easy it is to carry all of your favorite movies in your (somewhat oversized) pocket. Bam, you're sold on phablets.

If price is your reason to love a phablet, get ready for an irresistible upgrade this summer. Some experts predict that more companies will flood the market with phablets, which should force the prices down even lower.

The strength is also the weakness

That large size attracts a lot of buyers, but it also turns a lot of people off. The average consumer sees three mobile device options:

  • Smartphone
  • Tablet
  • Laptops
The idea of a hybrid smartphone-tablet doesn't even enter their thinking because they know they can purchase a small smartphone that's easy to carry with them everywhere. If they need a larger option, they can just reach into a backpack and pull out their tablets. (When it comes to serious typing, though, it's hard to imagine that anything will replace laptops in the near future.)

These consumers don't want big phones filling their pockets to the brim. They want a phone that's easily accessible and a tablet that they can use on other occasions. Why confuse matters by trying to smash the two devices together?

Phablets aren't as popular as you might think

Despite the hype that you hear about phablets, it's possible that they're not as popular as you think. According to research by Flurry Analytics, only 3 percent of active users have phablets. 72 percent have phones between 3.5 inches and 4.9 inches, 5 percent own small tablets measuring between seven inches and 8.4 inches, and 13 percent have full-size tablets with screens of over 8.5 inches.

Compared to other mobile devices, phablets only make up a tiny portion of the industry. Still, it's a niche that designers want to dominate. Consider the perspective of a fledgling manufacturer trying to break into the industry. You don't want to compete against Apple, and you're pretty sure that companies like Samsung have the market pinned on Android devices. Instead of going head-to-head with the big guys, you try to claim a niche market, no matter how small it is.

And yet, some phablets are popular

When you look at the world population, phablets aren't that popular. But when you focus on certain areas, certain devices stand out as big sellers.
In March, 2012, Samsung claimed that it had sold five million Galaxy Note phablets. That's a huge number for a device that, quite frankly, you don't see that often in the U.S. They're not rare, but you certainly don't see them as often as iPhones.

Part of the problem could be that American consumers aren't behaving like other buyers around the world. Samsung claims that the Galaxy Note is the number one seller in countries that speak Spanish, French, and Chinese, not to mention Korean (Samsung is based in Korea). Despite economic troubles in the U.S., consumers still have more discretionary income than people in most parts of the world. Americans might prefer to carry a smartphone and a tablet, but a lot of people find that phablets offer a good compromise that makes mobile technology more affordable.

There are a lot of consumers around the world waiting for the Galaxy Note III to come out. They're eager to buy, and they could change the way that manufacturers look at the mobile device industry.

No matter which device you choose, app developers win

If you're an app developer, you probably watch all of these with a slight bemusement. It doesn't matter whether consumers prefer tiny smartphones, big tablets or something in between. The fact of the matter is that people want mobile devices, and that means they want apps.

With the current app-buying system, that's an easy position to take. Most devices have operating systems that fall into one of two categories. Either you have a phone with an Apple operating system or one with an Android operating system. As long as you can create apps for one of those two options, you're good to go.

Will phablets fade away?

Phablets can look like a fad, but it's not smart to disregard them this early in the game. U.S. buyers don't mind buying two mobile devices, but the U.S. market doesn't control the industry anymore. As countries like China and India develop, they will have a bigger impact on what manufacturers decide to make.

That can influence technology trends as well as the aesthetics that attract people to certain devices. If you want to make a safe bet, wait until after this summer before you rule for or against phablets. There are a lot of innovative products on the way.  You shouldn't discount them until you've seen them.

Do you think phablets or a fad, or will their popularity grow?

Shaun Chatman is a well published author on many authority sites. He lives in Dunedin, FL, and spends his free time playing with his kids or his collection of gadgets.

  • Options

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:35 10

1. dangchitrung (Posts: 88; Member since: 04 Apr 2012)

are you writing this on behalf of Apple?

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:42 20

5. xperiaDROID (banned) (Posts: 5629; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)

What do you mean? This is a good article written by Shaun Chatman!

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:02 11

10. osmaankhaan (unregistered)

I think apple has dropped the plan of a phablet thats y they want to start criticizing what they can't make by resting their weapon onto the shoulders of reviewers to shoot..

posted on 01 May 2013, 19:03 1

50. cenasucks4eva (unregistered)

apple is probably too cheap to make bigger phones

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:30 9

21. EXkurogane (Posts: 863; Member since: 07 Mar 2013)

This is a good article. Phablets are stupid to me because it is impossible to iperate the device single-handedly. If the device is compact enough i can tolerate up to 5 inch in screen size.

posted on 01 May 2013, 08:39 10

39. JDogg5281 (Posts: 64; Member since: 09 Aug 2012)

For some people it might be hard to operate one handed others maybe not. Depends on your hand size as well.

posted on 01 May 2013, 05:06 11

27. Note2waitingonNote3 (banned) (Posts: 87; Member since: 19 Mar 2013)

The DELL STREAK started this category but Samsung with the Galaxy Note and now the Galaxy Note 2 perfected this category. The current Galaxy Note 2 is the GOLD STANDARD of technology today. The device every manufacturer is trying to catch up to and copy. It's the BEST all purpose productivity/multitasking/entertainment device ever made since the inception of android. It will be the Galaxy Note 3 for me come September/October nothing will be better for the remainder of 2013 at least till June/July 2014.

posted on 01 May 2013, 06:20 5

33. joey_sfb (Posts: 5741; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)

I also waiting for Note 3, Galaxy S4 seem small for my taste. After Note 2, there no need to carry a tablet and a phone and to have two 4G plans.

Save quite a bit on subscription.

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:36 18

2. xperiaDROID (banned) (Posts: 5629; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)

5 inch is already enough for me! 6 inch can't even fit in my pocket!

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:53 4

7. darkskoliro (Posts: 1076; Member since: 07 May 2012)

yupppp my butterfly is probably slightly too big by my taste, just every so slightly though..

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:58 5

9. tiara6918 (Posts: 2036; Member since: 26 Apr 2012)

Bu the butterfly is more comfortable in the pockets compared to the note2,you will always have to take it out of your pockets whenever you sit

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:04 2

12. kclgphilsbsa (Posts: 765; Member since: 21 Jan 2013)

Nope, i can still sit w/o taking it out, im a small person
But it also depends on d size of ur pocket :)

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:23

19. darkskoliro (Posts: 1076; Member since: 07 May 2012)

i never said it wasnt :) felt the note 2 before, totally not my thing.

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:15 1

17. xperiaDROID (banned) (Posts: 5629; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)

The Butterfly is comfortable to hold and fits into the pocket nicely!

Do you have small hands? Just asking.

posted on 01 May 2013, 06:12 2

31. darkskoliro (Posts: 1076; Member since: 07 May 2012)

Medium id say, and yes it does fit nicely in pocket and everything! Its just the cases add too much for one handed use...if it is naked then its perfect ;)

posted on 01 May 2013, 06:46 2

35. xperiaDROID (banned) (Posts: 5629; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)

Oh I see........I think you should buy a slimmer case! There are many slim cases for you to choose! :)

posted on 01 May 2013, 07:32 1

37. tiara6918 (Posts: 2036; Member since: 26 Apr 2012)

Trywww.metal-slim.com while I do prefer the phone naked,but these cases atleast still show some skin of the butterfly

posted on 01 May 2013, 07:52 1

38. xperiaDROID (banned) (Posts: 5629; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)

Wait, I'm using the metal-slim case too, for my Xperia Z!

posted on 01 May 2013, 06:23 1

34. joey_sfb (Posts: 5741; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)

I always carry a pouch or a bag plus a Bluetooth headset.

I guess its individual lifestyle choices.

But if you don't want to get yourself struck with a large screen phone should stay away cause there no going back to 4" and below for me.

posted on 01 May 2013, 06:51 1

36. xperiaDROID (banned) (Posts: 5629; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)

Me too, I'm not going back to 4" and below. I will keep on using 5"!

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:41 12

3. Reverence (Posts: 224; Member since: 16 Jul 2012)

Phablets are win and they will never fade away...the note series is an example and everyone except APPLE is moving towards phablets

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:41 4

4. XPERIA-KNIGHT (unregistered)

I still draw the line at 4 5 inches lol

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:07 1

16. Berzerk000 (Posts: 4275; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)

I think 5.3" is the line for me if there is very little bezel and the aspect ratio is right. Also, did you get your 4.1 update yet for your Photon Q? It rolled out a few days ago.

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:43 18

6. hateftotti (Posts: 198; Member since: 03 May 2011)

As a Galaxy Note 2 onwer,it is really great to have a phablet or whatever you call.
Great performance+protability+huge screen
Wait for Note 3 as well :)

posted on 01 May 2013, 03:55 14

8. tiara6918 (Posts: 2036; Member since: 26 Apr 2012)

A phablet is when you want a phone and tablet at the same time,the size is just right for many users. Having used my mom's note 2 and my dad's butterfly, watching videos,surfing the net,playing apps has never been made easier and better. Phablets are far more convenient to take out of your house and use compared to a laptop and tablet.

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:02 4

11. kclgphilsbsa (Posts: 765; Member since: 21 Jan 2013)

I have a very small hands actually coz im a filipino, yet i can manage to hold a note2 always and seems normal to me now.. as my main handset, i will never go back to smaller display w/ lesser productivty and lesser android experience :)

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:05 4

13. Jubin (unregistered)

Same here. Being a Note2 user, I don't think i'll ever get a device which is below 5 inch in the future. And flagship device screen sizes are already on the rise. Flagships used to be around 4.3 then 4.5 then 4.8 and now 5 inch is the new norm. Its actually the high demand of Phablets (or phones with big displays) which is causing this increase in screen size. Note2 rocks!!!

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:05 6

14. Bluesky02 (Posts: 1439; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)

I'm a big guy and Phablets phone size fit in my hands so it is not a problem. I think Samsung is considering all possible Markets from big to small. Phablets are also good at playing games like GTA.

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:38 4

23. xperiaDROID (banned) (Posts: 5629; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)

You're a big guy eh? Ok, so you love big screens?

Let me introduce you the ASUS Fonepad, it is a 7 inch Tablet + Phone, you can make calls on the Fonepad! Awesome, isn't it? :)

posted on 01 May 2013, 11:02 1

42. Bluesky02 (Posts: 1439; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)

hahaha that's too big for my hand, Note 2 is max you can say

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:06 7

15. joseph98 (Posts: 167; Member since: 03 Feb 2012)

Will buy the note 3 when it comes in a heart beats.

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:21 4

18. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

What a silly article.
Phablet is an all in one device.. a true pocket computer, that can also be a camera, gaming console, note taking device, content creation device etc etc etc.
NOTHING else on the market fits the description.



If you could only have one electronic device to use in life, what would you pick?

I know I'll pick up a high end phablet for my next device.
Much cheaper and more practical than buying a new high end phone and tablet separately

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:28 2

20. Klamba92 (Posts: 210; Member since: 25 Jun 2012)

Whilst there is nothing wrong with the phablets it works for many people, but I draw the line at 5 inches or if manufactures take note from Motorola and Samsung by keeping the dimensions the same like droid RAZR to droid RAZR HD or s3 to s4. However I don't see how they can fit more screen on say the s4 unless they went with soft keys. I would like to see some manufactures also take the Asus approach with the padfone!

posted on 01 May 2013, 05:15 2

28. mochan (Posts: 1; Member since: 01 May 2013)

I don't see why people are hyping the Asus Fonepad as some kind of innovation. We had the Galaxy Tab way back and it was a 7" phone and tablet as well. And I don't even think the Galaxy Tab was the first 7" phone.

That said, 7" is too big to use as a phone. I did -- had a Galaxy Tab+ for a year. It worked, I used it as a phone, and it was in my pocket all the time, but it was simply too big and there were many occasions where it was inconvenient.

I "upgraded" to a Galaxy Note and that was the perfect size. It was very pocketable, was big enough to not be as bad a mobile experience as an iPhone or other smaller phone, and yes I can use it one-handed, it's not impossible.

I am not going back to smaller screens, 5" is too small for me already. I am hoping for a 6" screen with almost no bezel. I am waiting to see if the Mega 6.3 fits the bill properly.

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:31 2

22. MultiYouTroll (Posts: 29; Member since: 19 Apr 2013)

"What's the hype behind phablets? Won't a smartphone or tablet do?"

but wouldn't it be much better to have both in one?

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:44

24. OpTiMuS_BlAcK (Posts: 418; Member since: 04 May 2012)

4.7 inch is the maximum I'd go for. I'm just using a 4 inch phone and it already feels just right..

posted on 01 May 2013, 04:44 4

25. FlushGordon (unregistered)

My Note 2 is my go-to Android device....will never settle for anythng less and I will be the first one to fall in line once the Note 3 hit the shelves.......

And this is coming from a former iPhone 4s user

posted on 01 May 2013, 05:04 2

26. darkkjedii (Posts: 21204; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

Having them both in one package that fits in most pockets is pretty cool.

posted on 01 May 2013, 05:20

29. Timmehor (Posts: 599; Member since: 09 Mar 2013)

The Galaxy Note (i think) is just pushing the limits in size, and thinking Samsung is making a Mega 6.3, wow, too far.

posted on 01 May 2013, 05:36 2

30. Furbal (Posts: 980; Member since: 22 Sep 2012)

phablet = more room for activities.

posted on 01 May 2013, 06:12 1

32. InspectorGadget80 (unregistered)

1st of all stop calling it phablet. 2nd id prefer a bigger screen. U can do more multitasking on a larger screen and it also have full hd screen that have a bigger resolution than the iphone plus it have a larger battery life.

posted on 01 May 2013, 08:49 2

40. McLTE (Posts: 821; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)

This article sucked.

hello captain obvious.. you make a phone that pushes the boundaries in size and of course it's going to have fewer buyers than what was/is currently considered "standard".

Same goes everywhere.. really big TV's.. yup, smaller population buys them. huge vehicles.. same story!

There aren't any "problems". Different parts of the world likes different things. From what I've read, Asian countries are rather tech-savvy and much more into that stuff than the US, so it seems reasonable to me that they would gravitate towards these big phones. I believe the more techie crowd will latch on to these phones than someone who isn't.

There are tons of consumers that don't have a need or want for a big phone. GREAT! There are a bazillion phones for those people. I'm glad that Sammy started this niche because its' great for ME. I know I'll never go back to a smaller phone.

posted on 01 May 2013, 08:55

41. jellmoo (Posts: 1586; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)

I like options. Giving people an array of sizes is a good thing. While a phablet seems ridiculous to me, others enjoy them so I like the fact that companies are offering this as a viable option.

My concern is that too much attention is being given to these larger form factors. Getting a high end device smaller than 4.7 inches is becoming increasingly difficult. While it is important to cater to people that want bigger, I think there needs to be added attention to people wanting a more compact flagship level smartphone as well.

posted on 01 May 2013, 11:48

43. puckhead (Posts: 81; Member since: 13 Jan 2013)

I am not sure I need a phablet, but I def need a screen bigger than what apple offers. I need at least 4.7". Pretty much everything about the iphone is top notch except the size of the screen. And while I understand that a skinnier phone is easier to use with one hand, I still believe the viewing benefits of a larger screen out are more important.

posted on 01 May 2013, 14:24

44. Havok519 (Posts: 2; Member since: 15 Apr 2013)

phablets are not going to fade away due to the fact that they still make smaller devices for indivuduals who dont want a phablet. I'm a phablet user and i love it because it's the phone for me. if your not someone who wants a huge phone then don't get one.

posted on 01 May 2013, 14:33

45. MihaiPredaH (Posts: 3; Member since: 01 May 2013)

I am a Note 2 user and previously I've tried to use as a phone my tablet at that time, a Galaxy Tab 7.7 coupled with a bluetooth pen-form headset HM5000. Even though the main usage of my tablet/phone was media consumption in the little time spent for phone calling the pair was cumbersome. Also the poor quality of the camera and the size of the tablet made photography and video recording pretty much out of the question. The phablet form factor seems a very good solution until google-glass type of devices will mature and spread world-wide. I'm wating Note 3 or Sony Togari as a Note 2 replacement.

posted on 01 May 2013, 15:29

46. GrosseFatigue (Posts: 139; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)

The question is: will tablets vanished? Phablets are here to stay and replace them eventually.

posted on 01 May 2013, 15:56

47. 1ceTr0n (Posts: 549; Member since: 20 May 2012)

Because its the best of both worlds, what else do you need to know?

posted on 01 May 2013, 16:36 1

48. haydenb (Posts: 38; Member since: 24 Nov 2011)

I love my note 2 and it fits in my pockets just fine. Im looking forward to the Note 3 and possibly a note 10.1 since it looks like samsung has stopped production of that tablet. Looking to eventually replace by Galaxy Tab 2.

posted on 01 May 2013, 16:38 1

49. haydenb (Posts: 38; Member since: 24 Nov 2011)

What im also amazed how good the battery life is on the Note 2

posted on 02 May 2013, 01:14

51. roscuthiii (Posts: 2217; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

The author missed the answer to his first question in the title, by not thinking about his second question...

Having a phone and a tablet requires two devices. That's a lot more money to have two fairly expensive devices to be carrying around. Seriously, if the answer is to just leave the tablet at one spot and carry the phone, then why even get a tablet and not just stick with a laptop instead. Two devices can mean even having two data plans.

If you're just going to go with only having one, then you can be missing out on all the features the other can offer. Not that media (and/or gaming) isn't acceptable on a phone, but damn... it's much more enjoyable on a larger screen.

So, why the hype over the phablet? Because in one device (and one data plans) you get a handset that's able to provide a mobile communications, mobile productivity, and mobile entertainment platform.
If a Nexus phablet were available, all I'd probably need is that and my gaming/media PC.

posted on 02 May 2013, 07:15

52. Kelley71 (Posts: 72; Member since: 26 Nov 2012)

I think that phablets may be where high-end QWERTY fans end up as well--the bigger screen being easier to tap-type on. I know I'm leaning that route given my current choices. A slider phablet would be phabulous, but that's just wishful thinking.

posted on 02 May 2013, 08:38 1

53. RomeoJDR (Posts: 244; Member since: 09 Dec 2011)

You briefly touched upon the answer to your title when talking about consumers who are more financially frugal or smarter with their budget. Phablets are not perfect for either smartphone or tablet categories, but offer reasonable compromise to provide a 2 in 1 device. Instead of paying extra money for a tablet and an extra monthly data charge you can get a phablet that offers nearly the same functionality. The market share for phablets is actually quite remarkable considering the Galaxy Note didn't even arrive until end of 2011 and has stood alone in the market until recently as LG's first attempt came with a horrible form factor. As American consumers become more used to mainstream phones being at or near 5in, then phablets will continue to gain market share as people won't fear "looking dumb" holding a large framed phone to their heads. Image is everything for most people under 30 and phablets will eventually become "cool" to have rather than "geeky" propelling them higher into relevance.

posted on 02 May 2013, 09:39

54. Jeradiah3 (Posts: 1032; Member since: 11 Feb 2010)

I totally agree with what you said. I thought phablets were only designed for the corporate world and people like me who are over 6'5" with large hands. My wife has the Note and she loves it and will upgrade to the Note II soon. Its good to see companies like Samsung make bold moves to change the landscape of mobile technology. I will upgrade to the Note II or III sometime next year............depending on price. i think that phablets are here to stay as long as they keep the concept the way it is

posted on 03 May 2013, 04:39

55. Mike63 (Posts: 3; Member since: 03 May 2013)

I'm in the UK and also have large hands, so was thinking of upgrading my Galaxy S2 to the Note. In the end I stuck with my GS2 and bought a Galaxy S 5inch media player (model YP-G70 - the battery on this thing lasts for ages!) I use the GS2 for 'regular' stuff (calls, texts, email) and the media player for music, movies, social networking, web and game playing. I chose not to go for an 'all-in-one' solution on this occasion, so for me, this is currently a good compromise. And in response to Jeradiah3's comment regarding corporate designs, it wasn't too long ago that BlackBerry handsets were only used by businessmen and women. Now every other kid has one.

posted on 03 May 2013, 06:42

57. GrosseFatigue (Posts: 139; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)

Hey I can reach my nose with my tongue like all froggies can. That gives me a technical advantage with the ladies.

posted on 03 May 2013, 05:12

56. Mike63 (Posts: 3; Member since: 03 May 2013)

Must add that I did in fact receive an upgrade for the GS2 - a Nexus 4. Tried it for a week, and despite it's four cores and 4.7inch screen...back in the box it went. Prefer my 'old' Samsung.

posted on 04 May 2013, 03:21

58. GrosseFatigue (Posts: 139; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)

There is an other reason to stick to Samsung. They let you upgrade after one year only as Motorola for example wont let you upgrade for the whole duration of your 2 years contract. Motorola is so slow coming up with new models. Samsung benefit as they are flooding the market with new models. We benefit. Today 2 years is too long to wait to upgrade.

posted on 06 May 2013, 16:23

59. medicci37 (Posts: 1276; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)

I just wish Samsung would stay with a 5.5 inch display on the Note 3

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