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

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?

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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

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169 comments
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    • How many flags does it take???

      How many flags does it take for ZDnet to notice?
      zd8
      • Re: How many flags does it take???

        The problem is that flagging is also being used for comments that people simply don't like. How do you expect the moderators to spot the difference?
        ldo17
  • Problem

    Main problem is that this phone looks exactly like the SG3 which means it's ugly and plastic.
    Informative
    • Does the job, though, eh?

      I suspect Samsung have realised that we aren't all buying phones for fashion reasons :)

      And I'm prepared to push the boat out and say "They're right. Again"

      But Apple needs your fashion dollar ... Samsung not so much.
      Heenan73
      • Cheap

        Well Samsung sells despite the plastic and ugliness due to the price.

        You don't have to be buying a phone for 'fashion reasons' to want it to look good.

        Did you want your home to look nice when you bought it? Did you buy your house for fashion reasons? With your 'fashion dollar'?
        Informative
        • I don't like your house, it looks cheap and tacky

          Oh right, that's just my opinion, not the opinion of millions of people around the world.
          Great, you like aluminium, no doubt you then wrap it in a poly case to protect it, however your view is not the global. I don't like the design of the iphone, do I tell everyone it's ugly and pointless, no, the furthest I'll go is to say it doesn't float MY boat.
          Little Old Man
          • Not necessarily just my opinion

            I believe the majority of people will be disappointed in the looks of this phone and the fact that it doesn't progress at all the year old design of the SG3.

            And also, if you look around on other sites, the clear and I mean CLEAR consensus is that it's not attractive.
            Informative
          • And Apple does better?

            Because streching the body of the iPhone 4/4S to make an iPhone 5 is a really big change isn't it?

            And let's not get all gooey eyed about the iPhone - it's a piece of aluminium and glass, has some nice lines but it's getting a bit boring too.

            Apple is becoming a bit of a 1 trick pony - iOS is their only real success story now - in a world where you may soon need a few extra tricks up your sleeve to survive (and that doesn't mean a watch).
            joneda1
          • Well be consistent then?

            Who said anything about Apple?

            You just criticised Apple for exactly the same thing I'm talking about. So why aren't you criticising Samsung for not changing much?

            That right there is what makes you a biased fanboy.
            Informative
          • It's obvious is a fake

            This is just a fake, let's wait for the actual product. As for beautiful designs there is the Sony Xperia Z.
            lorenzosjb
          • How many more styles can a Smart Phone company come up with?

            So what if the GS4 looks like the GS3! The Note 3 resembles the GS3. There are only so many designs that Smartphones can look like. They're all rectangular shaped, some with rounded edges, some with sharper looking edges. People complain when the edges are too squared,, they complain with they look similar to the previous models, rounded edges. People thought the original Galaxy Note wad too boxy/square and called it ugly. What do you people want? You'll complain no matter what so buy it if you like it, don't buy it if you don't like it! Problem solved! Yes, the GS4 is similar to the GS3 but it's what is under the hood that will make people want to upgrade! Same with the Galaxy Note 3, it's going to be an awesome phone and a great upgrade for those who want it. The ones that don't like it, don't buy it!
            Note Lover
          • My computer isn't attractive either.

            So what?
            mlashinsky
          • I'm not

            very attractive, so what the hell do I care about how my phone looks? I manage to get as much interest from good looking women, so I don't need a status statement. I want a phone that works. By the way, my daughter got an S3 last fall, in England, and they wanted 40 pounds a month for the purchase and unlimited data. She negotiated and got them down to 25 pounds a month which is roughly $40usd for the phone and unlimited usage.
            bigsteve666
          • Yeah, well, opinions differ. Where's the poll?

            The ugliness of the S3 must be why they outsold every other phone in the world in the last quarter of '12.
            Ian Mega
        • .....

          Well even if looks are what your after the samsung phones are way more stylish then the iphone. So you get a phone that does more, looks better, and cost half the price so no real way to loose with a samsung. Ill by jumping from my long time htc evo on boost to the either the galaxy 4 or the note 3 if it comes soon to sprint.Screens under 4.5 inches are just to small and uncomfortable to hold
          Fletchguy
          • Not more stylish, doesn't do more

            1 - it isn't more stylish. It's mixed types of plastic
            2 - it doesn't do more, it doesn't even get Android updates when they come out
            3 - it doesn't cost 'half' - it typically costs about $50 less.
            4 - fair enough if you don't like smaller screens.
            Informative
          • Un-Informative

            2. I could write a book on what the iPhone5 cannot do that a Galaxy S3 let alone the S4 can do. As for updates, Samsung not only updates, they IMPROVE Android with their own features. Even my 1yo+ Galaxy Note 1 got a Jellybean update from Samsung. Lastly, even if they were not update, they would still be about 2 years ahead of iOS6.

            BTW, Aluminium is not even a quality material. Disposable drink cans are made from it. Aluminium is also impractical being slippery to hold and it makes the phone difficult to prop at an angle on a table as it slides and falls flat.
            Aluminium also has an adverse effect on radio transceivers.
            It is also heavier than polycarbonates and more susceptible to damage.
            Aluminium is just an inferior material for phones compared to plastics.
            warboat
          • Go on then?

            Lets hear your examples then? Samsung do not update Android with any pace at all. They got the Jelly Bean update months after it came out.

            Aluminium is both more expensive to extract and to manufacturer. Drink cans are a cheap form of aluminium, just like plastic bags are a cheap form of the plastic the SG3 is made from, but I'm not ridiculous enough to start listing that.

            The Aluminium in the iPhone 5 also has no bearing on the radio transceivers - do you somehow think that the millions of people who bought it can't make phone calls?

            Aluminium is stronger than polycarbonates too - and the iPhone 5 is lighter than any flagship Samsung phone - which is why the iPhone 5 is better in drop tests. It also looks better.
            Informative
          • No Android updates?

            So why have I had an Android update on my S3? For one thing, my S3 arrived complete enough to outcompete with iOS. For two, it has been updated (albeit with only slight improvements).

            All buyers should care about, is whether what they buy meets their needs out of the box. If they get an upgrade down the road, that is just gravy.
            dimonic
          • I agree Fletchgut

            I have the Note 2 and will most likely be getting the Note 3. I could never go back to a small screen and the features on it beat out any other Smartphones, hands down!
            Note Lover