One day, long from now, we’ll be telling stories to our grandkids. … “Back in my day, we had smartphones the size of small tablets. We put them in our pockets, we put them up to our ears. Nothing like what you kids have today.”
Whether our grandkids will be using smartphones the size of large tablets or attached to glasses or shoved into watches — or embedded directly into their brains — remains to be seen. (Personally, I’d expect some sort of seismic shift long before then.) But one trend became apparently around 2010 and 2011: small phones were done for.
A few experimented — the old Sony Xperia Mini comes to mind — but we quickly saw phones hit 4 inches. Then 4.3 inches. Then 4.5 and 4.7 inches. Now 5 inches — and even a little bigger — is the norm for a smartphone not named iPhone. The HTC One Mini? 4.3 inches is the new “mini.”
Then came the Samsung Galaxy Note. Huge at the time — 5.3 inches?! — but rather pedestrian by today’s standards. The Note ushered in the age of the “phablet,” a horrible name (that no self-respecting smartphone nerd actually uses) for some that’s more than a smartphone but not quite a tablet. Since 2011, we’ve seen the likes of the Note 2 (5.5 inches) and 3 (5.7 inches). And other manufacturers followed suit, like LG with the Optimus G Pro (5.5 inches), Sony with the Xperia Z Ultra (6.4 inches!) and Samsung with the Galaxy Mega 5.8 and 6.3.
Screen size alone does not a phablet make.
It’s gotten to be a bit much. But that’s not to say these oversized phones haven’t been popular — and that’s not to say they haven’t added something to the ecosystem. In fact, screen size alone does not a phablet make, we’d argue. (And that’s another reason the word “phablet” is kind of dumb.) The good ones add something, be it pen input or pen input or … well, more often than not, they’ve added some sort of pen input.
None of this has really answered the question, though. Who are these monstrosities — these freak-of-nature phones — best for? The answer is an unexciting “Anyone.” At the end of the day, they’re no different than any other smartphones, oversized or not. Different sizes, different features. Different strokes for different folks.
Are phablets truly deserving of their own product category?