Oct 04, 2013 (07:10 AM EDT)
8 Phablets To Watch
Read the Original Article at InformationWeek
Even if you don't care for the term "phablet"-- and many people absolutely hate it -- the popularity of smartphone/tablet hybrids known as phabets is undeniable. In fact, research firm IDC recently forecast that tablet sales would soon face stronger competition from smartphones and phablets, the latter category including a variety of 5-inch or larger phones, such as Samsung's Galaxy Note series. More than a few tech reviewers mocked the original Galaxy Note (and its oversized dimensions) when it debuted in 2011, but the public took to the device right away. The Note continues to sell well. Samsung Electronics CEO Shin Jong-kyun announced in September that his company has sold more than 38 million Galaxy Note 1 and Galaxy Note 2 devices, and expects to sell more than 10 million units of the new Galaxy Note 3.
Not surprisingly, other mobile device makers want in on the action. Major vendors such as LG, HTC, Huawei, Nokia and Sony have either just released a big-screen phone/tablet hybrid, plan to do so shortly, or are rumored to be readying one for release.
What's the appeal of these monster phones? Well, the convenience of carrying around a pocket-splitting device certainly isn't one of them. On the plus side, the phablet kills two mobile birds with one stone. Its screen is large enough for popular tablet apps -- video streaming, e-books, Web browsing, productivity apps and so on -- that aren't particularly well-suited to a 4-inch smartphone.
But despite the phablet's success thus far, some critics see mobile devices of that size as a niche category with limited long-term appeal. In March, Gartner mobile device analyst C.K. Lu told reporters in Taipei that phablets are attractive to Asian consumers, who have limited budgets for electronics and hence prefer carrying one mobile device, according to the Taipei Times. In the U.S. and Europe, however, people often carry two devices -- a 4- to 5-inch smartphone and a 7-inch (or larger) tablet -- and prefer to use each gadget for different purposes, Lu surmised.
The verdict is still out on whether the phabet is a suitable replacement for two-device mobile users. One thing is certain: The latest phablets are nearing tablet-size dimensions. The Samsung Galaxy Mega, for instance, has a 6.3-inch display, and the Sony Xperia Z Ultra's screen measures 6.4 inches. Can phablets grow much bigger, or have they reached their maximum size?
Click through the slideshow to read up on the latest phablets, many of which debut this month. We've also included a few rumors about what the biggest tech players, including Apple and Microsoft, might be cooking up to address the phablet phenomenon.
The new Galaxy Note 3 is the latest member of Samsung's phablet clan. Its 5.7-inch display is slightly larger than the Note 2's 5.5-inch screen, but its dimensions are essentially the same as its predecessor's. Display resolution is impressive at 1920 x 1080 pixels, or 386 pixels per inch (ppi). By comparison, the iPhone's 4-inch Retina display is 1136 x 640 pixels (326 ppi). The Note 3 is powered by either an 8-core, 1.9-GHz Exynos or a 4-core, 2.3-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. There's a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 2-megapixel shooter on the front. The 3200-mAh battery is a bump up from the Note 2's 3100-mAh unit. And, of course, there's the S Pen stylus, a unique feature of the Note family that most phablet (and tablet) makers have shunned thus far.
Perhaps the Note 3's greatest novelty is its partnership with Samsung's new Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which lets Note 3 users make calls, send texts and do other tasks without having to reach for the gargantuan phone. Calling Dick Tracy!
HTC is already selling a Mini version of its flagship One smartphone, so why not a maxi model too? The struggling phone maker is reportedly planning to unveil its new HTC One Max on Oct. 17. Rumors suggest the monster phone will have a 5.9-inch Full HD display, as well as HTC's highly regarded 4-megapixel UltraPixel Camera. This clever camera system, which debuted with the HTC One, has an advanced CMOS Sensor, image signal processor and optical lens system that captures more light than conventional 8- or 13-megapixel shooters, the company says. Some reports claim the One Max will have a fingerprint sensor as well.
The Ascend Mate has a gargantuan 6.1-inch display, Android 4.1 (meh) and a "Magic Touch" feature that lets a user operate the touchscreen even while wearing thick gloves, Huawei claims. Its phablet's best feature is arguably its 4050-mAh battery and power-saving software, which should deliver more than a day's use under normal conditions. The cons: The 1280 x 720-pixel (241 ppi) screen, while decent, isn't best in class; nor is the phone's 1.5-GHz quad-core processor. Not surprisingly, the rumor mill is rife with reports that the Ascend Mate 2 is in the works and should arrive soon.
You want big? The 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra comes dangerously close to tablet territory. Sony's monster phablet struts some impressive hardware, most notably the sharp 1920 x 1080-pixel (342 ppi) display. A mere 6.5 millimeters thick, it's amazingly thin for a big phone. (By comparison, the iPhone 5s, a device regarded for its svelteness, is a relative fatty at 7.6 mm.) The Xperia Z Ultra is waterproof up to 1.5 meters (just under 5 feet) and dust resistant, Sony says. The device ships Oct. 14, but it's unclear when it will make it to U.S. wireless carriers. Some retailers are already taking pre-orders, though. Prices start at $700.
With more phones sporting 5-inch screens, the Vu 3's 5.2-inch, 1280 x 960-pixel display seems almost, well, quaint. In fact, the Vu's screen is slightly larger than the 5-inch model on the LG Optimus View. Perhaps the Vu 3's most unique attribute is its 4:3 aspect ratio, which gives the devices a boxy, squat appearance. Like the Optimus Vu, the new Vu 3 comes with a Rubber Diem capacitive stylus. Other key features: a 2.26-GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, Android 4.2.2, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 2.1-megapixel camera on the front. The Vu 3 is currently available only in Korea.
Here's one for you, Windows Phone fans: Nokia this month is expected to unveil its Lumia 1520, a 6-inch phablet with a 1920 x 1080 display, 2 GB of RAM, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 32 GB of storage, reports The Verge. The device's PureView rear camera will reportedly be able to capture photos at 16 megapixels and 5 megapixels simultaneously. This unique feature may help distinguish the Lumia 1520 from the many Android-based competitors out there.
Microsoft's hardware partners have pretty much abandoned the Windows RT mobile OS, leaving Redmond's own Surface RT as the lone RT-based slate in town. Microsoft isn't giving up on RT, however, and may even be planning a phablet that runs RT rather than Windows Phone, some industry watchers believe. But it's unclear how Microsoft's merger with Nokia may impact its Windows Phone/RT phablet plans, particularly when rumored devices like the Lumia 2520 and Surface Mini are expected to have capabilities similar to Microsoft's own Surface 2 tablet. A successful phablet could help Microsoft become a player in the mobile market, as the company badly needs a shot in the ARM (pun intended).
Apple has publicly ignored the phablet phenomenon. Privately, however, the opposite may be true. The Wall Street Journal reported a month ago that Apple is testing iPhone screens as large as 6 inches. Yep, that's phablet territory, all right. Does that mean a 6-inch iPhone maxi is coming next year? It's quite possible. There's a sizable gap in Apple's mobile lineup between the 4-inch iPhone and 7.9-inch iPad Mini tablet. A 6-inch iPhone phablet might be a nice fit.