Yesterday's announcement of the HTC One Max, yet another giant-screen smartphone, confirms a growing trend — devices that straddle the line between phones and tablets — phablets — are here to stay.
And I, for one, am happy to welcome our new oversize overlords.
Stop making phun of phablets
While the tech press loves to make phun of phablets (calling them "comically large" is popular, as is asking if that's a phablet in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?) real people seem to love them. Samsung's Galaxy Note series, for example, has been a big sales success, especially in Asia.
There's a pretty simple reason for why phablets are finding a home. Smartphones and tablets were designed for a legacy vision of how people use mobile devices — you know, phones for making phone calls on the go, tablets for consuming content at home. But phablets are perfectly aligned for how people actually use their mobile devices. Staring and poking at that screen for a incredible variety of purposes just about anywhere at any time. Oh, and occasionally making a call.
The biggest phablets aren't much smaller than the 7-inch Android and Kindle tablets on the market from Amazon, Samsung, and others. So they can do pretty much whatever a small tablet can do. But they have a huge advantage over any tablet. They're also your phone, so you don't have to carry two devices. Plus, the phablet already has your mobile broadband connection, so you don't have to worry about tethering or additional data plans.
As long as the phablet is small enough to carry with you all the time (admittedly a variable standard) it effectively kills two birds with one stone. That makes it a practical, economical alternative to having both a smartphone and a small tablet. Large format tablets might still make sense for content consumption at home, but that's an optional, luxury item.
Phablets are personal for me
I have to admit, though, that I don't currently own a phablet. The contract on my iPhone lasts another year, and I also have a Nexus 7. I'm happy with the Nexus 7 and I love the iPhone 5 — except for one thing: The screen is too damn small. That's a problem for viewing many apps and especially Web pages where I seem to spend hours pinching and zooming to see the information I want. And I hate having to smush the thing right up next to my face just to read the text. (I know, I need new glasses, but still.)
Apple is rumored to be working on a giant, 6-inch cross between the iPhone and the iPad. I sure hope those rumors come to pass. Because when my contract runs out, I'm gonna make sure my next phone is a phablet — whether it's an iPhone or not.
Or my name isn't Phred!
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