Phablet vs. Tablet: Screen size matters

Summary:Consuming information on a mobile device is commonplace, due largely to the popularity of the smartphone. With phones getting bigger than ever, some consider using them instead of a tablet. Experience shows this isn't the way to go for some folks.

Samsung Galaxy Mega
Galaxy Mega Image: Samsung

In the early days of the smartphone they all had tiny screens by today's standards. We didn't care, they fit easily in the hand and did everything we needed.

Then display creep set in as OEMs started slipping bigger screens on our phones. Reaction from prospective buyers was mixed at first, and eventually we settled down to accept phones with larger displays.

This continued until some really massive, almost comical, phone screens started appearing. These smartphones with six-plus inch displays can almost hide the owner's face when on a call, and don't fit in many pockets.

These big phones are often called phablets, a term this writer hates, as they are phones approaching the size of tablets. The thinking is that having one of these giant phones can eliminate the need for a tablet. After all. the phones are approaching the size of smaller tablets.

"While today's giant phones, often over six inches, are not much smaller than my favorite seven-inch tablet, that extra display real estate is significant.

This sounds good on the surface but using a phone to replace a tablet may not be ideal for some. I went through the same thought process in the early days of the phablet and soon returned to the tablet fold.

When I purchased the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, a five-inch phone was considered a phablet. The display was about as large as you could get on a phone. Not big by today's standards, but as big as they got back then.

At first, I marveled at how much better the "big" display was for surfing the web and other online activities. I started leaving the tablet at home and using just the phone for all online activities.

Special Feature

Tablets: Where's the Productivity?

The hottest device in the enterprise remains the tablet. Executives have pushed for them, IT departments have accommodated them, and users continue to clamor for them. Are they a fad or game-changer? We examine the productivity benefits, opportunities, and myths.

It worked well at first, then the luster faded. I was constantly zooming in and out on that "big" phone screen to see what I could. It quickly became a chore to consume the content in a way that was comfortable. It didn't help that using so much data traffic kept killing my phone battery.

After a brief foray into phablet waters, I returned to throwing a tablet into the bag before I headed out. The larger tablet screen, even though it wasn't much bigger than that of the phone, worked so much better for typical online activities. Not only could I see an accurate overview of web pages, I could read them more easily as a rule.

That's why phablets don't tempt me away from even a small tablet. While today's giant phones, often over six inches, are not much smaller than my favorite seven-inch tablet, that extra display real estate is significant. How much better it is can't be described, you have to see it for yourself.

You may find a phablet to be just right, it's a highly personal choice. But many who try one may feel the same as I do, that the tablet is a more practical option. Sure, you can still get one of those massive phones that dwarf your hand, but you may find you still prefer a tablet for online activities. And that's OK, too.

See related: 

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones, Tablets

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.