Everyone and their pockets hates the size. Everyone including the American Dialect Society hates the name. But so-called "phablets" are on the rise, from production to sales to even more unveilings at CES this week, because, well, everyone still wants a big-screen cellphone — our modern habits almost demand one.
Techies like to argue that the new breed of extra-large smartphones don't have a "sane" aspect ratio, but considering the way people actually use their smartphones these days, 5.5 inches of screen on the Galaxy Note may suit a lot of them a lot better than a baby 4-inch iPhone 5.
And, sure, a big phone looks kind of funny when you're holding it up to your ear, but talking on the phone hasn't been the primary function of a cellphone since 2009 — a trend that has only continued as our smartphones do more things with data. Also, because of brain-cancer fears and hands-free use, a lot of people use headphones and headsets to make their phone calls these days.
These minor aggravations, meanwhile, seem more than overwhelmed by the many benefits of a phablet's ginormous screen — benefits, it turns out, we really want. As you can see in the chart of daily phone usage below via a June 2012 Telegraph article, most of the time we ignore ear-centric functionality for those things that involve our eyes and fat fingers:
If you're counting at home, those 12 minutes and six seconds for phone calls are about half the time spent on the Internet alone. And a phablet is designed specifically to make reading and typing easier, the actions required to do those top two activities, Internet and social media.
Of course, phablet size and design has negative effects on other activities besides awkward talking. Some argue that watching movies presents more of a problem, if the aspect ratio doesn't come out to 16:9. With a 4:3 aspect ratio, for example, LG's Intuition requires those black bars on top and bottom. But people don't spend much time watching movies on their phones with perfect 16:9 aspect ratios. For feature-length viewing, screen size might trump aspect ratio. Tablets elicit more time spent watching videos than both laptops and smartphones, studies have found. At five and six inches across, the phablet might have enough screen to get people watching.
Tech watchers themselves have admitted that they will forgo perfect screen design for something more portable. The iPad Mini had many a tech writer upset because of its compromised resolution. (It doesn't have the same nice display as any of the big iPads.) But many a gadget snob have come around. Maybe with a better term for these not-a-tablet, not-quite-a-phone devices, the tech elite will stop complaining. Not that their gabbing has mattered much thus far: The giant screen phones are selling fast, and more versions from more gadget makers are right behind.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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