The ‘phablet’ and its appeal

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Samsung must be given credit for this. While the iPhone set a new standard for smartphones in 2007 (and some others, ahem, copied it), the S2 changed the conversation and shifted focus to the ‘big screen’. A lot of people are attracted to it and Apple too changed their screen size, albeit their own way with the iPhone 5. The S3 and Note (and now Note 2) have gone on to become even bigger hits in the market place. There is trade speculation that Apple may be launching their own version of a large screen, relatively  inexpensive phone for certain markets. Be that as it may, what explains the attraction of anatomy-defying 5-inch plus screens on a phone? Virtually every manufacturer of mobile handsets has one these days. Some come pre-installed with the latest Android Jelly Bean.  Its not limited to one geography – such phones seem to be popular everywhere.

The popularity of ‘phablets’ have been attributed to their large screen size which makes viewing images & videos and browsing more visually appealing. It is also about perceived value as it is seen as eliminating the need to carry a laptop or full-blown tablet separately. Some may question its ergonomics and its ease of use but I am told using it, even with one hand is easy, especially over time. It’s like the switch from Symbian devices to Sony Ericsson during the feature phone days – one gets used to it. Personally speaking, holding a monstrously large phone (especially if it is one of those call-enabled 7-inch tablets) to your ear to make a call feels laughably odd, embarrassing even. But then, we all have our preferences.


Image source: Android Central

Aside from the above is there a reason why ‘phablets’ are doing well? Herewith some thoughts.

– Smartphone usage, be it for work related activities or leisure does not involve long hours of ‘creation’. Most of the work related stuff that gets accomplished on a smartphone is email reading, attachment viewing (could be images, documents) , ‘quick response’ (entailing 2-3 lines of typing) to emails and a few calls. Such activity, especially on a landscape mode does not challenge your  as it would if one were to use the phone only to make calls or input with your fingers for long periods of time. The leisure related stuff – browsing, quick scan or participation in social media sites, taking & sharing pictures, playing games – are all very conducive for a 5-inch+ screen. The real estate makes the image-rich sites (most are, including Facebook) or screens come alive. Participation in social sites involves touching a button or typing in a few characters. All of which is a breeze in such phones.

– Voice calls on a phone is limited to a smaller set: I am flying a kite here and have no data to prove it, but I am assuming that we speak at length to a small set of people on the phone and for the rest there is SMS, email or Social Media. There was a time when greetings moved from printed cards to SMS. Now that seems to have given way to greetings on social media – birthday wishes to New Year greetings are on Facebook or Twitter. Even among college students or working professionals, a smartphone is being used less for voice calls. In a UK survey, it was found that the average smartphone owner spends more than two hours each day using the device, but only 12 minutes of that was spent making calls.

– everything is a visual opportunity: people whisk out their smartphones to take pictures everywhere – malls, restaurants, temples, family functions, sunsets…you name it. And all of it must be shared on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Large screen phones are ideal for such.

Combine these with our innate urge to extract maximum value out of our purchases and we have the ‘phablets’ hitting a sweet spot. PCs or desktops are meant for work. Phablets are meant for visual consumption, leisure and adequate for the immediacy of work.

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