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Phablet fallout: Why am I progressively less interested in screen real estate? (opinion)

Despite my absolute adoration for phablets in the past, I have suddenly found myself taking more interest and comfort in "small' sized smartphones.

Published onApril 20, 2016

Alcatel OneTouch Hero 6 Inch Phablet Hands On -17
Behold…a PHABLET!

Not that many years ago, smaller screened devices — those below 5-inches or even below 4.5-inchs — were not only a common site, they were the norm. However, in the years following the arrival of the Galaxy Note series a new trend started to emerge, one where bigger was better. I was among those that lusted after larger screens. Yet now it’s 2016, and I’ve arrived at a rather strange crossroads that I can’t make head or tales of.

Despite my initial lust for phablets, I’ve lost interest in them. Mind you, I’m not just talking 6 inches and up, I’m talking about even 5.5. It’s a conundrum that I can’t seem to comprehend, though I’ll seek to retrace my proverbial steps and find out just what has caused such a change.

A focus on Phablets

As a brief history, I was a proud owner of the “first” Android phablet, the Dell Streak. At a whopping 5 inches, it was tremendously titanic back in the day. Naturally I also had to own the OG Galaxy Note, and every subsequent Note thereafter, including the Note Edge.

Likewise I’ve also dabbled in plus-sized phablets, including the Xperia Z Ultra (6.4 inches), the Nokia Lumia 1520 (6 inches), and the Galaxy Mega 6.3. If that isn’t “street cred” enough, I actually imported and spent an entire month using the Galaxy W as my daily driver; said “phone” was a whopping seven inches.

Something happened around the time I got the Motorola Nexus 6, though. It just seemed too big. What initially seemed to be a one-off soon turned into a growing concern, as I felt the same way about Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge+ and the Lenovo PHAB Plus. The LG V10 felt impossibly too big. Even spending time with the Galaxy S7 Edge – at just 5.5 inches – has felt a bit strange.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Hands On-36

Start with some symptoms

The problems I am experiencing with phablet use these days boil down to several symptoms:

  1. Many of the newer phablets – such as the Nexus 6P and the LG V10 – are unnecessarily long when they need not be. HTChas long been charged with having this problem – as well as Apple – however it’s just started to annoy me. Why do I need to carry around 25% more phone in top and bottom bezel room?
  2. I have normal sized hands for my height (6’3″/190cm) and type with my thumbs. I often want to use a phone with one hand, and phablets make it that much harder because of the extra weight and space they occupy. I don’t like having to worry about dropping it, and dislike the extra reach needed to try and bring down the notification shade. For those who use the index finger to type, perhaps this isn’t such a problem.
  3. Smaller screens have higher PPI counts and therefore will look sharper.

Differential diagnosis

I’ve surmised the situation as one of four possible plagues:

1. I found my sweet spot. Devices today are world’s away from the petite size they once were, something that makes Apple’s recent iPhone SE seem all the more peculiar. Truth be told, a 5.1-inch display works just fine for me, with 5.2 inches also falling within range.

2. I’ve become “traumatized” by tablets. Because I have an 8-inch tablet, as well as a larger more traditional sized one, it may also have altered my perception of phablets: Why do I need a large phone when I can look at media and such on an even larger device meant to do just that?

3. Bigger devices have just ceased to be better. Perhaps my former love of phablets was based on the fact that  ‘regular’ phones would often be at or just under 5-inches, thus 5.7+ was truly a big screen treat. Yet as the standard size began to get larger, the perceived benefit of an even larger one became that much…smaller.

Do you have anything a bit smaller?

4. They’re just too commonplace. Maybe part of my love for phablets in the past was linked to the idea that – especially here in Japan – phablets took a bit longer to catch on. So, having one used to be cool, but now that everyone in Tokyo has an iPhone 6 Plus, they’re less “head turning”.

Truth be told I suspect it is really a little bit of everything in between, and possibly something yet unseen. It’s truly difficult to articulate what the problem is. The real question is just how many other people have encountered this same problem. I have considered that, perhaps, if I didn’t have a tablet, my interest in a phablet would be much stronger than it is today.

Treatment Options

Assuming there are some others who feel as I do, or may be progressing to such a state, I’ve considered some ways for OEMs and users to “solve” the problem:

  1. OEMs: Get rid of the extra bezel room. Unless you have front mounted speakers, please find a way to make the product as compact as possible while still being large. The Galaxy Note series is usually pretty good at this.
  2. Users: Download games and apps are optimized for big screen phones.
  3. OEMs: Start making better use of large screen sizes. I’m sorry, but why can’t Android OEMs get with the program and make the freaking home screen work in landscape mode?!
  4. Users: Buy a really small phone and use it for a while, then you’ll be in love with a phablet for all the ease of use it provides as well as goes easy on the eyes.
Maybe using something like this for a few weeks will reignite a passion for phablets.

Wrap Up

Phablet sales were consistently on the up and up quarter after quarter and indeed impacted those of full-blown tablets. But now that they are becoming as commonplace as normal cellphones – or rather normal phones have become the phablet of old – it’s possible the industry as a whole will see a change in trends. Indeed Google itself sought to “rectify” the Nexus 6 with last year’s smaller Nexus 6P – another device I found just too tall.

What do you think? Are you as interested in phablets as ever, or has the novelty of their unique size factor worn a bit thin? For that matter, if you do or did like large screen phones, what screen size did or do you find to be your own sweet spot? Please take our quick survey below and then sound off in the comments section!

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