Samsung has been toying with different sizes and concepts for its smartphones and tablets over the years, and there is a standout category–the phablet. When the company launched the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note, there were many skeptics, but the subsequent success of the Note and the Note 2 has caught the world by storm. Consumers fell in love with the product category, and Samsung’s rivals are taking note with their own Note competitors. There’s been a number of phablets that have debuted since the beginning of the year, and with screen sizes that are getting bigger, many of the phablets that were recently introduced at Mobile World Congress could be seen of as tablets with voice capabilities rather than phablets.
While Samsung didn’t pioneer the Android phablet space it did make the phablet computing category a success. Initially thought of as a niche product, the Note has demonstrated that it is a mainstream success story with lots of consumer appeal thanks to its 5-inch plus display size that can still be easy to maneuver as a large phone yet still sizable enough to be productive as a small tablet. As such, mainstream media has referred to anything with a 5-inch or larger display with voice capabilities as a phablet.
Recent 5-inch Phones That May Be Considered Phablets
For Note devotees, a phablet is more than just the display size as Samsung has curated a tablet-like user experience with its S-Pen digitizer to give users a more productive experience. However, for those who just care about display real estate, here are some recent 5-inch devices that are phones but may be considered as phablets
- HTC Droid DNA. The Droid DNA as well as the J Butterfly variant sold internationally is a powerhouse in its own right with a full HD 1080p display and a quad-core processor. Sleek and stylish, it features HTC’s trademarked HTC Sense user interface and is among the first 1080p quad-core device on the market.
- Sony Xperia Z. Though not first to market, the Xperia Z was beaten by HTC but offers features its rival does not offer, such as a more capable 13-megapixel camera with an Exmor RS sensor and waterproofing that makes the Xperia Z a pool-side companion.
- LG Optimus G Pro. There are confusingly two variants of the Optimus G Pro, but both are stylish and sleek. The first variant is the 5-inch model introduced first in Japan that boasts similar specs to the HTC and Sony rivals. The second variant bumps the screen size to a 5.5-inch display. Both offer 1080p resolution, and LG also throws in its QSlide enhancement to overlay a transparent window on top of another for simultasking. watch a video and email at the same time, LG says.
- Huawei Ascend D2. The Ascend D2 will rival the Sony model in specs with water resistant features and quad-core processing power alongside a 5-inch 1080p display.
- Other notable contenders in the category: Oppo Find 5, Galaxy S4 (rumored), ZTE Grand S. In addition to these models, there are other 5-inch models as well so this 5-inch category is definitely growing.
Bigger is Better
Though users of the Galaxy S3 may laugh at their Note 2-wielding brethren, the Note 2’s 5.5-inch 720p HD display with a 16:9 aspect ratio looks rather lilliputian next to some of these introductions with display sizes that stretch into the 6-inch zone. These devices are clearly intended as data-first, voice-second devices. Imagine holding a 6-inch slab next to your head? It’d be like talking to an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite at best.
- Huawei Ascend Mate. Let’s just hope you don’t ‘mate’ this Ascend Mate to your head as it will look rather awkward to talk to a 6.1-inch display. Lacking Samsung’s clever UI overlays and enhancements from its Premium Suite offering, it’s unclear how much utility you’ll get from this larger smartphone display other than for web browsing and perhaps more accurately plotting the trajectory before slinging those Angry Birds.
- ZTE Grand Memo. Aping Samsung’s 5.5-inch display, the Grand Memo has a 5.7-inch panel with slim side bezels (think iPad mini) and an attractive design. Featuring a 720p HD resolution, it lacks the S-Pen and useful enhancements that are proprietary to Samsung, but adds a new Samsung Snapdragon 800 powerhouse processor.
The Ridiculously Large
If bigger is intended to be better, these ridiculously large tablets may be the ‘best’ phablet to rule the phablet kingdom if the same logic is to be applied. These are more like tablets, with voice capabilities built-in. And these devices are actually not the first of its kind in the Android tablet category. Samsung had debuted its first tablet a few years ago–the 7-inch Galaxy Tab–with voice calling capabilities, but that feature was stripped when the tablet landed on U.S. soil as carriers wanted to brand those devices as tablets. These devices can be seen as the revival of the original Galaxy Tab 7.
- Galaxy Note 8.0. As if Samsung is mocking us that a 5.5-inch phablet is still not big enough, the Note 8.0 is an 8-inch tablet with a 1280 X 800 resolution display, which is the same resolution as the original Galaxy Note and is on par with today’s tablets. It looks like the Note 8.0 won’t be a tablet-optimized experience and may be just a large Android smartphone, though Samsung hasn’t confirmed that yet. By this we mean that the Note 8.0 won’t be able to run tablet-optimized apps and may just stretch smartphone apps to fill its high resolution, but extremely large display. Intended as an iPad mini competitor, the Note 8.0 may be just the biggest competitor to the iPhone 5.
- Asus Fonepad. There was the modular docking Padfone that was a cool concept for its time, but for this go around, Asus is going big with Intel, literally. Boasting Intel’s processing power, the Fonepad is a 7-inch Android slate with phone capabilities. We still don’t know if the experience of the Android OS will be the tablet experience or the phone experience. If it’s the phone experience, it will not be able to run tablet-optimized apps and the large 7-inch display will again be wasted. The device is rather affordably priced at $249.