Samsung's Galaxy S4: Does 5-inch screen make it a phablet?

Summary:Three years after mocking the 5-inch screen of the Dell Streak, Samsung's Galaxy S4 may make that display size commonplace everywhere. Will there be a correction in the run on large-screen phones?

Let's give Dell's Streak---that 5-inch tablet meets smartphone contraption that made an early Android splash only to disappear rather quickly---some credit for leading the way on the design front.

OK, let's not carried away. You can stop laughing at the notion that Dell was a trend setter, but stick with me on this one.

The Dell Streak appeared in 2010 and it was among the first Android devices from a major PC manufacturer. The problem: No one was sure what to do with it. TechRepublic's Jason Hiner noted at the time:

This is my primary question with the Streak. Who would use it? I’ve struggled to find any really good use cases, especially for business professionals. It’s too big to make it your primary smartphone, unless you only make a couple calls a week and mostly use your smartphone for messaging, apps, and mobile Web browsing. And, you’re comfortable with a 5-inch tablet in your pocket or bag. The Streak could be a decent tablet for field workers who use Web-based applications to do their jobs, or if there are Android apps to handle those tasks.

Now let's fast forward. On Thursday, Samsung unveils its Samsung Galaxy S4 device. According to a video, which may or may not be legit via 52Samsung, the Galaxy S4 will have a 5-inch screen. In less than three years, we've gone from mocking devices like the streak to having a phablet format by default. The Verge noted that the S4 is yet another enormous Samsung phone. 

It's likely this run to increasingly large smartphone screens will correct at some point, but for now 5-inch screens may become popular. I like Samsung's large screen formats, but there is a limit to the expansion. At some point, these screens will be too large---especially in the summer when you're running around in shorts.

For now though, Samsung's Galaxy S4---and all the sales that will go with the launch---will mean large screens will be everywhere. From the Galaxy S4, Samsung will sell you the Note---another larger screen---and probably a TV too---an even larger display. See the theme here? Apple pitches ecosystem, apps and brand. Samsung is aiming to connect the screens of your life.

On the business technology front, the size of the Galaxy S4 is notable. Why? The argument from Dell was that a 5-inch screen is better for healthcare since a tablet that size fits into lab pockets better. That's true. It's also worth mentioning that Samsung does have its share of healthcare case studies with its monitors and other tools. Combine the two and you can see where Samsung's business tech ambitions may be headed.

The screen size of the Galaxy S4s could be a big differentiator for IT buyers looking to combine smartphone and tablet purchases. Rest assured, companies are looking to converge some device purchase---whether it's PC meets tablet (Surface Pro, iPad, Galaxy Note) or phablet.

Topics: Bring Your Own Device, Android, Mobility, Samsung

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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