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Big-Screen Phone Or Tablet? What Android Device To Buy?


Published onApril 24, 2011

Tablets are a relatively new entry to the Android ecosystem but even so, they’ve quickly become a popular gadget to have. Being always-on and always connected has made it the go-to gadget for checking email, catching up on social sites and browsing the web. On top of all that, some versions can even make and receive calls, turning them into an ideal all-in-one device. Some of the models to currently out (as of this writing) are the HTCFlyer, the newer Samsung Galaxy Tab models and the Motorola Xoom.

Meanwhile, device makers noticed that bigger screened phones measuring 4.0 inches and up have been well-received by Android fans. Where once only a handful of large display phones were available like the HTCDesire HD and the Dell Streak, manufacturers are now keen on making their own flagship phones to enter this lucrative market segment. The Sony Ericsson XperiaArc, the Samsung Galaxy S2, Motorola Atrix and the HTCSensation are just a few of the recently released Androids out for sale. Powerful enough to go toe-to-toe against tablets (and a few regular computers), these so-called “superphones” are powered by dual-core processors, graphics chips and impressive displays.

In an ideal world, I’d say just buy both but our credit cards (and spouses) being the way they are, you probably can only get one. So we have to decide: should you get a big-screen phone or a tablet? Let’s break it down, shall we?


1. Web Browsing

A tablet no doubt has the greater browsing experience. With many browsers like Opera and Firefox providing an almost desktop-like experience when viewing web pages, you really can’t beat that with the smaller screen of a phone, even if it has a 4.2-inch display. And the bigger keyboard on a tablet also doesn’t hurt. Winner: Tablet

2. Movie Watching

It’s no contest: you need to get a tablet for this. The screen size says it all when you want to watch movies and shows on the go. It’s no HDTV but when you need a movie fix on a road trip, a tablet fares way better than a phone. Winner: Tablet

3. Social Networking and Calls

If you like to use social sites like Twitter, Facebook and such, tablets are nice but the handiness of a phone is better. You can easily whip it out as often as you want to tweet without getting crazy looks from the people around you. It’s also more comfortable than a tablet if you need to make or receive calls. But if you’re more comfortable resting your face against a tablet, who am I to judge? Winner: Phone

4. Doing Real Work

A tablet might be useful managing to-dos and doing simple tasks but for money-making, sweat-and-blood work, you need something more than even what a phone or tablet can give you. A few amazing people can blaze through the day’s work without touching a laptop or desktop but if your work requires you to create stuff like budget reports, whitepapers or blueprints, neither one of these devices will be as elegant a solution as a full-blown computer. Winner: Tie

5. Games

It’s been proven that the top use of tablets are for games. For gamers weaned on the console and PC, this might seem like a head scratcher but touchscreens do make very good game platforms. A lot of big names like EA and Sony know this and are starting to bring more gaming into Android. Winner: Tablet

6. Portability

A big-screen phone, while bulky, is still a phone and will fit most men’s pants pockets or purses for females. Grab it off the desk and off you go. Tablets though are a bit bigger so it probably needs its own case or bag if you want it to tag along. Winner: Phone

7. Battery Life

Phones with oversized screens are known battery guzzlers. There have been many improvements in battery tech for the newer phones, but the fact remains that the smaller body of a phone cannot house a bigger battery. In fact, many sport the same battery capacities of their smaller cousins and this paired with a gigantic screen means you need to keep a charging cable handy if you want non-stop use of your phone. On the flip side, tablets can carry juice up to 2-3 days worth with regular usage due to the bigger battery capacities that come with them. Winner: Tablet

8. Connectivity

Both tablets and big-screen phones carry the same type of communication chips inside: WiFi, 3G, HSDPA, Bluetooth, GSM/CDMA. So the point is moot; you can get connected either way. If you need to be always connected to the internet, both types of devices can hook you up easily. Winner: Tie

9. Security

We know that you live in a good neighborhood yourself but a lot of times, you need to pass through bad ones to get to where you want to go. If you’ve been accustomed to using your device on the go, chances are you’re going to whip that out whenever you need to check something online. A tablet is much more flashy in this regard and attracts the eyes of the not-so-trustworthy crowd. It’s also harder to stash and keep out of sight unless you carry a bag as well. Winner: Phone

10. Camera Use

I’m not talking about a better megapixel camera here. What I mean here is using the built-in camera in regular situations. You would be hard pressed to use a tablet camera for anything besides video calls due to the bulk. For phones, even big phones, you can quickly whip them out to catch the moment on video or as an image. What’s more, the faster processors often let you take shots almost instantly and give no lag when recording video. This means less fumbling and more preserving precious moments. Winner: Phone

11. Price

You would be surprised but price is not an issue. The price points of larger screened phones and tablets hover at around the same level. In addition, you can probably get a good tablet with 3G connectivity at the same price as a high-spec phone. For example, a Galaxy Tab fetches roughly the same price as a Google Nexus S (both brand new) over at Amazon. Winner: Tie



While I did put which device won on each category, there really is no clear-cut winner here between big-screen phones and tablets. Each has its merits which you should consider when planning your purchase. If you’re the social, out and about type of person who makes calls, tweets almost every hour and likes to snap everything in sight, a big-screen Android phone would be better for you. There is the issue of battery life though, but your usage probably won’t drain the battery too much (hopefully).

On the other hand, if you’re the type that likes browsing, games and movie watching, an Android tablet is definitely what you should consider getting instead, most especially if you prefer texting versus calling. Now all you need now is to decide which tablet or phone model to get, which is another story altogether.

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