Phablets: The Uncertain Golden Mean

While phones are growing and tablets are shrinking in size – here in the middle we have so-called phablets. Basically these are smartphones with screen size between 5 and 7 inches (which is currently a privilege of Android OS; but Windows Phone is expected to catch up). A phablet is often a pricey solution, but anyway less pricey than smartphone plus tablet. For some people it’s a great chance to avoid carrying both devices at a time, and when both are necessary, for example, for work. So far a phablet is the closest candidate for ‘a single device for all purposes’. However, its sales are being overwhelmed by these mighty neighbors.

When it comes to custom mobile development, phablets get two drawbacks (or maybe peculiarities). The first one is that, despite the prospects of phablets, the niche currently remains rather small. Screen size is the second one. While it’s the thing that differs phablets from smartphones, it faces a different approach in app development; in addition, phablets have different screen sizes between themselves. A phablet can be called a universal mobile device, but design here cannot be managed as universal. What’s the solution? Phablets can’t be called a niche to solely orient at, but definitely it’s one to consider. Support of phablet screen sizes requires additional time and efforts for adjustment and testing on the devices chosen by the software owner (for example, it’s absolutely necessary to consider Samsung Galaxy Note – perhaps the most popular phablet series).

Should a software product owner encompass the phablet market? It depends on the mobile software. What could definitely be appreciated by phablet users? Obviously it depends on how they use their devices.

A phablet is often seen as a great mobile tool for handling office tasks. This means office/productivity mobile software needs to be adjusted for these. Documents and spreadsheets are managed easier on a phablet than on a smartphone; and text input is much more tolerable while interacting with a bigger screen (which can have more content placed on it).

Being a solution for practical people, phablet has much space for creativity and entertainment. It’s not a device for convenient single-handed use, it’s just different. Its convenience is facilitated by stylus (which hasn’t gone completely out of fashion, and isn’t useless either). Thus creating notes, sketches and drawings is also more convenient on a phablet. And it’s not only for the sake of drawing – the use of stylus can go as far as ideas can.

A stylus can allow to hit a bigger screen with higher precision – that’s a hint for game development; and bigger screens are more attractive for richer gaming experience – much more space to play with, more gestures to incorporate. That can work for any game category.

Let’s point out other reasons why phablets are relevant. They are attractive mediaplayers – especially for watching movies and other video content. They make good e-readers; reading on a phablet requires definitely less zooming than on a sub-5” smartphone. Users also appreciate such activities as web browsing, online shopping and socializing – here phablets are almost as great as tablets.

To sum it up, we can say that readjusting apps for phablet screens is good; additionally altering design can be a reasonable decision (which depends on your software); but it’s not the one single field to play on. The percentage of phablet users is currently not that high; but modern Android smartphones (such as Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One) tend to get bigger and bigger, that’s why popularity and relevance of the phablet market is a topic yet open to discussion.

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