Tech Spec: Is the Phablet Market Becoming the Smartphone Market?

Remember back in 2009, when the iPhone 3GS and the Motorola Droid hit the scene? Those phones were top-of-the-line, with their single-core processors and 3G data speeds. One of the coolest features of these phones was their touchscreen. Both phones had similar-quality screens that measured approximately 3.5 inches. But times have definitely changed since then. Today, finding a smartphone with a screen size that small is quite difficult. Companies are moving towards bigger and bigger screens. Some phones, like the Galaxy Note 2, are less than 2 inches away from the size of the iPad Mini or Nexus 7 tablet.

The industry is going too far and too big.

As technology improves, so does the size of the screen. But is the phone industry going too far? Photo by Courtland Jeffrey

As technology improves, so does the size of the screen. But is the phone industry going too far? Photo by Courtland Jeffrey

Back when the original Galaxy Note came out, the term “phablet” was coined to describe where the device stood in the market. A phablet is a merging of a phone and a tablet; in other words, it is a smartphone with a huge screen. The separation of markets was fine because everyone had their choice of an average screen or something that probably would not fit in your pocket. Now, if you are looking to buy a nicer, newer phone, the smallest screen you can find is around 4.3” (like a Droid RAZR). Phones that have screens around this size are already becoming out-of-date to newer ones that almost demand the use of both hands. This is a very complex move, to my understanding, for the phone industry.

Companies are realizing that people want more screen space. I will be the first to admit that a larger screen is a plus for me, but there is a cutoff point. Motorola, Samsung and others seem to have crossed this cutoff. This is just speculation, but these companies seem to want to move consumers from carrying around both a phone and a tablet, to one device that fills the need of both.

This move, if it continues to grow, will probably kill the phone feature of these devices. Consumers do not want something big to carry around at all times and if this phone size escalates to where it no longer fits in their pocket or takes up too much space in their purse, then they won’t want to use it as an everyday item.

If the phone industry hits a cap on screen size, it needs to happen now. That or consumers will have to redefine what smartphones are. The common understanding is that it is first and foremost a phone, but also has apps that allow for more functionality.

It is quite difficult to utilize a device as large as a tablet for phone capabilities. I think we, the consumers, have come to a crossroad in the phone industry. Either you continue jumping screen size and we redefine (and possibly lose) the phone or we keep the size we have and improve upon it. It is not about whether you like the larger screens or not, it is about them stretching the theory of a smartphone too far. Until that choice is made, I know that next time I am shopping for a smartphone, I will try to avoid phablets and find something I can keep in my pocket.

 

If you have any comments or views, feel free to share them on Twitter @Court_Jeffrey or via email at cejeffre@asu.edu. Enjoy!