Why Phablets Are Too Small

Posted By Aung Nay on Jan 26, 2015


Phablets are the new big thing now across all mobile platforms. Every Android manufacturer, Apple and Microsoft now have their so call “big” phablets that range in screen size from 5.5” to 6” with the most popular devices being Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus. I think they are too small.

The reasoning is pretty straightforward. It’s all about how we use our devices. Even though we still call them smartphones, the “phone” part is becoming less and less relevant. How often do we talk to people over the phone? For me, I only use the phone to talk to customer service of companies that I really hate, really old people and people who still think it’s 1876. For most people, we use our devices to send/receive messages/emails, browsing, social media, news/media consumption, navigation and video calls.

New usage model

With this new pattern of usage, the rule for device size has become simple. Get a device with the biggest screen that you are willing to carry around. It’s a subjective rule and it’s only bounded by what’s socially acceptable for most people. The next limitation is the size of your hand and not your thumb. It’s currently about the biggest width of the device that you can hold with one hand and can still fit easily into your clothing or bag depending on how you carry things around.

That brings us to usability of such a device. A few years ago, usability was measured by whether your thumb can reach every part of the screen. After criticizing Android devices with bigger screens for years, that concept died and the argument ceases to exist when iPhone 5 came out. Today, we expect actual operation of our mobile devices to be two-handed. Wanting to use a device with a single hand is just soooo 2000 and late. That brings me back to the phablets and what they really are.

Where we are now

Phablets are bridge devices that allows people to come to terms with using devices with both hands, while technology catches up with our needs. We constantly need to glance at our devices to make sure we haven’t missed anything. At the same time, we feel guilty that we have become slaves to our technology and that we are addicted. 2014 is year that allow us to finally try to find some sort of balance between those two issues using smart watches.

Smart watches allow us to filter notifications and give us a chance to quickly address simple things very fast. That means we don’t constantly have to deal with pulling out that phablet from those skinny, sexy but terribly annoying tight pants. Smart watches also created different types of occasions when you need to pull out that big device that will pretty much do anything your heart desires. But you really didn’t need that big device for basic things like send/receive simple messages/emails, simple searches, social media notifications, navigation. And that covers more than half of the reason we need smartphones.

Pushing the jean pockets

So, the next question becomes why not a 8” device, if it fits in your pants. We have pretty much overcame all the points that would object to carrying around an 8” device as a civilization. And the things that we need to do on a smartphone that we can’t do on a smart watch would be better served by a much bigger device. Now the issue became about availability of devices. Being in United States, that was a massive problem. All the US carriers have for some unknown reason have disabled phone capabilities from tablets. Since 2010, all around the world, 3G/4G tablets can make and receive calls.

You can import such devices. But there’s always annoying issues associated with it like having to live with missing frequencies, you have to forfeit that warranty, no technical support, pay exorbitant prices. It the recent years, the main issue for me has been lack of American LTE bands on those devices. Thankfully, it’s beginning to change a little. The new Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (Yes, it’s an idiotically long name.) supports American LTE bands unlike the Samsungs, Asus and a bunch of Chinese devices.

What about the iPad mini? It’s a good device. If you like the iOS and can live without making phone calls, then it’s fine. The thing about making phone calls is like having a car jack. You know you will have to use it. You just don’t know when you will use it. And you know you really should have it in your car. It’s for the emergencies. But the smart part about your device, it’s something you will use in every part of your day.

Still we need to keep in mind that all the smartphones, regardless of the size are temporary devices we are using until we can figure out how to make and use Cyberbrains from Ghost In the Shell. Anywho, getting back to the point, The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is way more comfortable to use than the Motorola DynaTac 8000x. (8.40” x 4.87” x 0.25” at 9.52oz Vs. 13.00” x 3.5” x 1.75” at 28 oz) Let your phablet go and embrace the taphlet/tabone, whatever you prefer to call it.

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