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So who needs a Phablet anyway?


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I still fondly remember that snowy January morning a few years ago when my Nexus One arrived. I was so excited for what was going to be my first ever truly high end smartphone, but what I couldn't believe when I opened that box was how massive the screen was. A full 3.7 inches of gorgeous AMOLED joy! I marvelled at that screen before I even bothered to insert the battery and switch the device on.

Less than a year after my Nexus One moment I was at a family tea when someone pulled out an HTC Desire HD. I think my jaw literally dropped as that step towards an even larger screen had been taken. I knew then that I had to have one and indeed I did. I was bowled over by the expanse of beautiful glass that I held in my hand!

Fast forward a few years and having gone through various devices and various screen sizes up to the full 4.7 inch goodness of the HTC One, I decided it was time to find out - what are these Phablets all about? After a brief dalliance with the Asus Fonepad as a phone (read Paul's review to find out more) and discovering it is a tablet which makes calls and not a Phablet, I managed to get my hands on a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - surely the ultimate Phablet at the moment. Would I now be able to answer my own question of how big is too big?

For some reason I was expecting the Note 2 to arrive in a massive and unwieldy box, but all was rather normal until that moment when I lifted the lid and there it was in all its glory. And wow, it is a seriously big phone. Even for someone used to 4.7 inch screens, the Note 2 is almost overwhelmingly large at first. As I fumbled trying to work out how to hold this large slab of a device, something unusual happened. For the first time in about two years I dropped a phone! I am very careful with my devices, but the Note 2 almost immediately got the better of me. Having borrowed it from Paul, I am sure his heart skipped a beat reading the last few sentences, but fear not Paul, it had a soft landing!

Once I managed to clumsily remove the back of the phone, insert my SIM card, reattach the typically Samsung flimsy cover and switch the device on, I could feel the excitement of trying a new device flooding through my nervous system. The blue flash that is the Samsung logo animating on startup only heightened that feeling and once I was logged in to my Google account I could not wait for my first test. I had dozens of unread emails that needed dealing with and I had thought this would be a good first task with this phone. And how right I was! Yes, I couldn't use the phone single handed, but triaging my email was a rapid and painless affair.

As that first day progressed and I spent more time reading on the Note 2 and interacting with it, I came to realise that the Phablet is certainly not going to be a passing fad even though there are far fewer devices that fall into that category than the popular tech media would have you believe. Reading anything on the Note 2 is simply fantastic. I had the joy of taking the phone on holiday with me and I chose not to take any other devices when normally at least one tablet and perhaps a Chromebook and a backup phone would also have made the trip. What a great device for reading a book, watching a film and entertaining my daughter. Having such a relatively compact - compared to a tablet - all in one media device was a pleasure. And as a function of its size, the battery is large and comes with great endurance as standard. Taking the usual array of terrible beach photos allowed me to play around with the included stylus to touch up the pictures and add trite annotations to boot. What a joy.

On my return I tried to continue using the Note 2, but like with many holiday dalliances, it was not to be. Such a large device is simply not necessary when I have a good tablet and laptop at home, rendering the expanse of the Phablet unneeded. Even commuting over my short - thirty minute - train commute does not require such a large screen when I leave my home with its array of devices and head for work where I have another pleasurable large screened computer to use. The pocket-ability of a more normal sized phone has won the day, but this is only my experience.

I now understand precisely why the Galaxy Note 2 is so popular and next time I go on holiday I will be asking Paul if I can have another loan of the phone. I don't hold much hope though, he already told me not to get too fond of it! Phablets are here to stay and the only argument left is trying to define which devices fall into this category. On second thoughts perhaps there is another argument - can we get rid of the ridiculous term "Phablet"?

About the author

James Norton's Photo
An aspiring tech journalist and a complete phone geek with a passion for all mobile technology. Vast experience of all mobile platforms and an evangelist for quality design no matter where it comes from.

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8 Comments

I love the idea of a device this size for many reasons, but for me there is one reason for not getting one - pocketability.

My phone gets used mostly for music, email, SMS, Facebook, basic browsing, etc. Calls are a relative rarity, and when I do make a call I often use a headset. So for day to day usage, a Note 2 would be great. Problem is putting it in a pocket, and not having to remove it every time I sit down.

When I go out for a coffee somewhere, I often carry a Nexus 7 around in my bag so I can read ebooks more easily. It is a great size for reading, without being too heavy.

If I wore a jacket all day, I'd probably go for a Note 2 or similar. As I don't, S2 is a great size for me (although have been tempted to get a S4 or Oppo Find 5).
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My issue is similar -- arm-band wearability. I'm not sure if my upper arm is big enough to hold a Note 2 (yeah, maybe I should go to the gym more!) and I don't want to have to use 2 separate devices.
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There's no problem pocketing the Note 2! I'm a regular sized guy, and my Note 2 fits in the front and back pockets off all my trousers without issue and (importantly) without looking like I've got a canoe in my pocket! :) I don't have to remove it when I sit down if it is in my front pockets either.
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the juggernaut
Jun 04 2013 01:39 PM
im tempted to go from the S2 to the note 1 as it is usable easily,pocketable and the fact that i think my S2 is letting go anyhow
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I find my S2 about as big I would want to go with a phone in my trouser pockets for comfort. Suit trouser pockets are fine, as they are much deeper than a lot of casual trousers (jeans, etc.).
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shobhit_1990
Jun 05 2013 05:44 AM
Any size from 4-5 inches is the optimum size..anything above it is not worth buying...because if you have problem putting it in your pocket (especially in jeans) and handling it with one hand...then every other advantage you get with large screen does not matter....
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@shobhit_1990
I don't agree with all you say. I have an S2 (4.3 inch screen, 5 inches over all), use two hands for controlling it and one for holding to read.

Same goes for my Nexus 7.

We all have our own criteria - as I said in my earlier post, if I wore suit trousers (or a suit jacket) a lot, then a larger phone would work fine for me.

I used to have a HTC Wizard - really thick phone. But for me it was a PDA first, and a phone second - so it wasn't in a trouser pocket, but in a bag or even left at home. Once internet access became easier and more important to me, I got a contract phone and picked a phone that I found easy to use for email and browsing. Then ease of carrying became more important.

Each to their own.

I've even advised some people to buy an iPad rather than an Android tablet, as they love their iPhone and iPod - so I say stick with what you know unless you have a particular reason to move to something new.
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shobhit_1990
Jun 06 2013 05:09 PM
@andybarker
Exactly....to each his own... :)
Since I wear jeans more and it is extremely uncomfortable, i don't like big screen phones...plus I personally think that for viewing videos or movies a phone cannot replace a large screen LED TV....

Currently the best phone in the market with optimum design is definately HTC One....

But as you said it all depends on personal choice......
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