Blurring the lines: When a smartphone gets too big!

March 1, 2013

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How big is too big when it comes to a smartphone? That is the question here in 2013. With devices like the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note II being readily available the limits were already being pushed, but this year the lines are going to get blurred even more. Would you hold an 8-inch phablet to the side of your head in public? Samsung and ASUS seem to think so.

While our friend Chris Davies looks great, doesn't that 7.7-inch tablet look ridiculous in the photo above? That's what the future holds! Soon you won't even be able to see our faces. We've started to really dislike the term "phablet" and have tried not to throw it around. Sadly now that Samsung has an 8-inch tablet with full phone capabilities and ASUS following suit, that's exactly what this new generation of devices should be called, as much as we don't want to call them that.

This week in Barcelona for MWC 2013, Samsung announced the all new Galaxy Note 8 tablet running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and rocking full phone and voice capabilities. We managed some hands-on with the Note 8, but didn't put it against our head and make a call -- but we should have. Arguably this isn't a phablet at all. Instead this is a powerful 8-inch tablet for serious consumption and creation with the S-Pen stylus - that just so happens to also be able to make and receive calls should the moment arrive. But is that overkill?

Then there's rumors that this August Samsung will be announcing their third generation Note smartphone. We've heard reports of a 6.3-inch Galaxy Note III with their Exynos 5 octa-core processor and a 13 megapixel camera. Whoa. Enough is enough. Are you excited for the possibly upcoming Note III, or at that point would you rather just get the Note 8.0? It's a hard question that can't really be answered til we try them, but we'd love to hear your thoughts.

"Soon you won't even be able to see our faces!"


Then we had another "phablet" announcement this year at Mobile World Congress. ASUS came out aiming right for the smartphone market, tablet buyers, and Samsung's pockets with their new FonePad. Now we're really starting to blur the lines. This thing is a 7-inch tablet (errr fone) that is also a phone. Is it a phone, or is it a tablet?

Does it really even matter? In this day and age a majority of the general public actually doesn't even use their phones to make calls, and when they do it surely isn't very often. We've all resorted to texting, Facebook and other social networks, and we can't forget Bluetooth headsets. Now that's where this argument and need for a phablet actually gains legs. We might as well enjoy large 7-inch and bigger screens full of HD content if we aren't ever going to make calls. Then the few moments you do need to place a call, just use a headset. This way you get an awesome large screen, yet can still place calls and not have to own two devices.

Enough talking. Lets just let ASUS show us how it's done.

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We also can't forget about portability, I can't fit the Note 8.0 in my jeans pocket. And the 7-inch FonePad is pushing it too, but surely many will love the idea and have no problem tossing it in their purse, leaving it on a desk, or carrying it in public. Are you one of them?

The video above shows ASUS really embracing the idea of a phablet, and they seem to have no problems with holding a 7-inch slate up to their ears. We know Samsung is embracing this new market, and the folks from Huawei have a 6.1-inch device too. As we've mentioned above there is clearly some advantages and disadvantages to having a phablet, but we'll just have to wait and see how the market reacts. In all honesty I have a hard time using anything over 4.7-inches, but the Note II has sold millions. So clearly others have no problem with it at all. Why own two devices when the FonePad or Note 8.0 will do everything you need...

It's an interesting concept that seems to be picking up speed fast. While the iPhone is barely reaching 4-inches and other competing platforms staying around 4.3, Android is leading the charge. Will 2013 be the year of phablets, or will you stick to smaller smartphone? Is the DROID DNA at 5-inches the sweet spot, or are you willing to go bigger? How big is too big? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • For me 6.5 inch screen is the future, the ultimate all-in-one

  • I love my Note, don’t mind the Note II’s size/shape, but anything larger would just mean I get mocked more, and I don’t really need that. Anything bigger than 5.5″ should mean decreasing the edges, removing dedicated physical or capacitive buttons

    • Like the DROID RAZR M and the edge-to-edge display. Smallest 4.3-inch device around and looks great.

      Give be a edge-to-edge bezel free 5-inch device and I’ll be happy. That’s about it

  • Alan

    Poor old Chris looks like hes holding a turd….I agree Cory..removing bezel yo get smaller devices should be the future

  • I think somewhere around 6 inches is about right, still get it in my pocket, large enough to see, now I’d need an in ear blootooth or Google Glass.

    • LOVE my Galaxy Note. Once you go big, you can never go back. (I know, that’s what she said)

  • Well you’ve already got people taking pictures with their tablets which looks absolutely silly.

  • Has the entire world gone insane? How are you supposed to pocket, much less hold one of these??? These aren’t even phones anymore. Two years ago the 5″ Dell Streak was considered a tablet.

    Phones are supposed to be portable and able to be easily interacted with on the go. Bring back the four inch devices!

  • baz

    have no problem skyping on my nexus 7, but im sitting down at the time, dont think I could walk and talk on it ! my luck ! get hit by a car crossing the road !

  • Greg Montaño

    I think 6-6.5″ size would be perfect for me. We don’t use any other devices at home anymore so something larger than 4.8 would be nice for browsing. I considered a 7″ tablet before I ended up with the gs3. 7″ might be too big to lug around or fit in pockets. I love this trend and it’s so sad to see some manufacturers stuck in the past.

    • Nabend1401

      Just remove the word tablet from this post and it becomes absolutely hilarious…

    • OGdroid

      But not everyone wants a phablet… In fact this can be inferred
      from the fact that Samsung sells more SG3’s than SGNs.

  • This is just a backlash from the trend a decade ago of making phones too small. Look at how big a telephone handset was for nearly a century. All they have to do is go 16:10 on the aspect ratio (ie: like many tablets already have), make the side bezels very thin, and voila! 6 or 7 inches is fine, and fits in pretty much all of my pockets. I find myself wishing I could use my tablet for a phone all the time!

  • Tudork

    the only reason my next phone WON’T be android is the ridiculous size of screens. I use top line phones but I will draw the line at 4.7. I want to go out into town without carrying a troller for my phone. I hope someone reads this.

    • frank

      Hold tight because your next phone is going to be a 6″ iPhone which is said the be launched within months…

      • If Apple sells a 6-inch iPhone, then the Apple lemmings and fanbois will all buy it and proclaim that 6 inches is the perfect size for a smartphone.

  • Aro

    For on the move i prefer a device that i can easily operate with one hand. 4.5inch seam to fit perfectly. 5 inch is definitely too large for my taste.

  • Current Note II User

    Relatively soon I’ll be carrying my 65inch 4k TV to use as a phone!

  • Vivghkl

    Bigger the better, people are entitled to their opinions but seriously, 5 inches too big. I don’t have the largest hands but dude, 5 inch screens to big to handle?! That’s average for me. The note 3/Sony Togari @ 6.44 inches are what i’d consider the ideal size, the Asus and Note 8, a little too big but i ain’t complaining!

  • DroidnTech

    Anything bigger than a 4.5″ display is too big for me. I prefer a device that fits easily in my pocket and is comfortable to hold. I get a kick out of all the photos of people talking on phablets, reminds me of spoof movies with guys holding the original brick-sized cell phones. I find the same humor when I see people at parties taking photos with iPads.

  • I would rather carry one 7inch phablet around than a note 2 and a nexus 7 like I currently do. besides you can use a Bluetooth ear piece when you have to make calls. one well made device to carry around is an idea whose time has come.. count me in if a us carrier decides to market these. one dataplan for one device that can do it all! how perfect is that?

  • vadertime

    My 4.3″ HTC Android phone is the perfect and maximum size to fit in my pant pockets. Anything bigger wouldn’t really be pockeatablle, although it would still be portable. However, I rarely make phone calls on my HTC phone, but mostly text, browse, facebook and check emails. It’s my multifucntion, always on, 24×7, connected to the internet computer.

  • Steven Perry

    I am wavering between the LG Optimus G Pro and HTC One coming off my archaic 2010 Sammy Captivate. I found out the USA LG will be 5.5″ but the Japanese version is 5″. With the HTC at 4.7″ I will have to check both out BUT I am thinking the USA LG is too big for normal reasonable use once you add a case.

  • Robert Pouncy

    I think that a certain amount of arrogance is starting to set in with Samsung. I love my Note 2, but they are sounding like a singer who think they are a serious actor, and no one is there to tell them they can’t do it, so when the movie and in this case their phablet fails then thats when they see how stupid of a idea it was!

    • Alan

      I actually disagree, I Think their market research has told them that some people will use an 8 inch Samsung S-Pen tablet that don’t want to use the 10inch tablet. I think theres a minority of people with bluetooth headsets etc that would use this as a phone, but I’d say the majority will not.
      The S-Pen is a key differentiator right now, add in the IR Blaster (for Peel), and go with a WiFi only model (so Stupid Verizon doesn’t hold back the updates) and you have a great device for around the home.
      I just wish they’d have smartened up and shrunk that ridiculous bezel.

  • OGdroid

    I agree with the backlash comment, I think there is also an
    anti-Apple reaction to the trend toward bigger phones. On the most part Samsung
    seems to be trying to establish what people will like.

    I also think what size phone you get depends on whether you
    also have a tablet and what size that is. If you have a 10” tablet it means a 6.5”
    phablet becomes ridiculous. No tablet maybe 5.5-6.5” will do although portability
    is an issue, for example, 4-5” is not a big problem at the gym etc etc but
    bigger it becomes a full time job of carrying it around. Am seeing a lot more
    people with the Note II but more often than not they are holding it in their
    hands which would suggest it’s not always comfy to carry it in your pocket.

    It will be interesting to see what people choose although am
    betting that it’s going to be in the range of 4-5”.

  • You know who else likes 8″? My mum.

  • Its not the size of the Droid it’s how you use it.. Poor iphone users with ur little toy phone… Awww bless it’s so small.

  • If I was robbed I would definety run to store and buy my Galaxy Note again without thinking. Once used to bigger screens there’s no go back.

  • Ricardo Oliveira

    Hands-free speakers?

  • Look at the bright side, it’ll make for a great skit on SNL.

  • runswithbeer

    Gotta fit in my pocket; 5.5″ screen quad core 48gb hd; 720p screen and cost a buck. Got two today. Hardly ever hold a phone to my ear anymore, that’s what a BT head set is for. turned text messaging OFF. Million ways to send text. Need the stylus to remote my PC. Put FileZilla server on Tower machine to keep my 4.5TB of stuff handy. you can stream Videos and music thru FTP now. That’s my Cloud. And the Chinese can’t hack it though they been trying for 5 years now. And SKYPE for the Grandkids.

  • perry

    Have we gone insane? Might as well just use your laptop to make phone calls. I go to the clubs a lot, travel, sports. 4.5″ is maximum size for me. How do you all jog, hike, go dancing, with these phones? They can’t fit or fit with comfort in my pockets. Seriously? It’s like a plague.

  • Mark Thomas

    “Soon you won’t even be able to see our faces!” Wah! Isn’t nice we all have a choice (except iPhone users). Some of us also wear glasses and it’s nice to be able use it without getting the readers out, Lighten up, whiners you really should let it go. The sales disagree with your “hypotinoose”

  • WillyG

    This reviewer finally got it right! I use my smartphone mostly as a tablet type device anyhow, but need the phone from time to time. Some contacts never answer their phone, but will repond to texting. Given that, I want some real estate for viewing and a sensible keyboard size. The existing 7″ tablets have way too large a border/bezel around their screen and that makes them way too large to handle w/one hand. I think a trim 7″ is at the upper limit of portable and less than 5″ is too small. And don’t lots of folks already use those Bluetooth earpieces for phone calls – in their cars for hands free – or walking around? All I need is a reasonable belt clip/holder and I’m good to go. Bring on the 6″+ phablets. Almost went for a note II, but it seems just a bit too capable/fancy/complex, but almost big enough. And by the way, our wireless, screenless phones of yore were over 6″ tall, and we were happy!

  • andrew

    Just purchased the Huawei Ascend Mate which the Corporation’s phone division is calling a ‘phone’. I agree, because it fits in my pants pocket comfortably. A tablet won’t period.
    It is going to be interesting to see whether Samsung’s new 6.3″ mega phone and Sony’s 6.44″ superphone have the same ease of mobility as my brillant & very low priced Huawei. If screen size is measured diagonally the width shouldn’t increase by much, particularly with ultrathin bezels.
    For those of you that haven’t tried an XL phone, do it. I use the handsfree earbuds for calls & music. Ideally a quality & discete bluetooth earbud headset is the way to go. Still doing the research.
    I am no longer buying a tablet. No need.