Smartphones may be getting bigger, but that doesn’t mean the word “phablet” is no longer relevant.
Contrary to what some may lead you to believe, the phablet is not dead. To those who think there is no longer a category of smartphones that blur the line between a phone and a tablet I argue that you are wrong. Just because a majority of flagships now feature a screen size of at least 5-inches doesn’t mean that the phablet category no longer exists, only that it should be redefined. Here’s why.
In the summer of 2011, Samsung introduced the original Galaxy Note with a 5.3-inch screen. At that time, it was considered to be extremely large since most popular smartphones of the day had an average screen size of anywhere between 3.5 and 4.5 inches. PC World called the Note "awkward" and even "too big to use as your primary smartphone," and with only 2 million sales in the first two months of its release many were under the impression that the phablet fad would never take off.
All of that changed by August of 2012 when sales of the Samsung Galaxy Note reached 10 million and it was obvious that the company had struck gold. Then came the copycats; by 2013 just about every manufacturer came out with larger smartphones. That is everyone except Apple, who maintained that anything over 4-inches was too cumbersome to be operated with one hand, a move that resulted in the loss of a number of customers to Android who favored larger screens.
It appears now that Apple is starting to feel the heat as countless leaks from the East indicate that the latest iPhone will sport a 4.7-inch screen, along with a second model with a 5.5-inch screen – a clear indication of where the market is headed. So where does this leave the phablet? Have we finally reached the pinnacle of screen sizes? Of course not, we just need to raise the bar a little higher.
While there is no official definition for a phablet it is generally accepted as a smartphone with a screen ranging from 5-7 inches, but so far this year it seems you are hard pressed to find a flagship Android smartphone with a screen size less than 5-inches. LG’s latest G3 sports a 5.5-inch display, as does the OnePlus One, and the Samsung Galaxy S line has grown to a healthy 5.1-inches. These phones would have been considered phablets 2-3 years ago, sure, but now they are the new norm.
The phablets of today realistically fall within the 5.6-inch to 7.0-inch range. The Galaxy Note 3, for example, is still considered by many to be the gold standard of phablets and it seems that Samsung has found solace with the 5.7-inch screen size based on a number of leaks that indicate the Galaxy Note 4 will be the first in the series to feature the same screen size as its predecessor.
At Mobile World Congress this year we saw the more extreme end of the spectrum from a number of handset makers including Huawei, who introduced the MediaPad X1, an ultra-thin phablet with a seven-inch screen. Rival handset makers ZTE and LG also both announced 6-inch phablets: the Grand Memo II and Optimus G Pro 2, respectively.
Somewhere in between is where you will find more average sized phablets like the Samsung Galaxy Mega (5.8 and 6.3), HTC One Max (5.9), Nokia Lumia 1530 (6.0) and Sony Xperia Z Ultra (6.0). This is where we can expect more phablets to measure up in coming years and with the new "mini" smartphone category becoming increasingly popular it is easy to see how mobile devices will most likely be classified in the future: wearables, mini-smartphones, smartphones, phablets, mini-tablets and tablets.
Looking further, a recent global survey by Accenture revealed that 48 percent of consumers looking to buy a smartphone this year prefer a phablet over the conventional smartphone. Estimates from Business Insider indicate that phablet sales will surpass smartphones by 2017 with sales reaching nearly 1.6 billion by 2019 and research by Juniper, which used the more realistic 5.6-inch cutoff, found that phablet shipments are expected to hit close to 120 million by 2018, up from the estimated 20 million shipped in 2013.
So if the word "phablet" gives you a migraine you might want to take some Advil because it should be very clear by now that the phablet era is far from over; it’s just getting started.