In 2012, a technology journalist reviewed Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 (with a 5.7-inch screen), saying,
"The phone is too big to be taken seriously... You will look stupid talking on it, people will laugh at you, and you'll be unhappy if you buy it."
In fact, the opposite happened. The popularity of the phablet has been strongest in Asia, where customers often must choose one device due to financial constraints. In Western Europe and North America, customers still buy a combination of PCs, tablets, and smartphones. However, this may change since Samsung, Apple and Google recently launched new phablets that are breaking sales records in the West.
A phablet is a device that combines a smartphone and a tablet with a screen size between five and seven inches. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that sales of phablets will surpass that of PCs and tablets in the next two years:
"Phablets will grow from 14% of the worldwide smartphone market in 2014 to 32.2% in 2018. Phablets will reach 175 million units worldwide in 2014, passing the 170 million portable PCs expected to ship during the same period. In 2015, phablets will rise to 318 million units, surpassing the 233 million tablets forecast to ship that year."
Customer smartphone behaviour continues to change due to tremendous innovation by the leading manufacturers. There are four major reasons why phablets will become the popular choice for business customers in 2015.
1. Pocket computing not pocket telephones is the norm
Smartphone behaviour is an interesting question as the way people use their phones continues to change with innovation. We do know one thing. People are talking much less. In a 2010 article called, The Phone is Dead, a journalist wrote that as far back as 2008, text messaging surpassed mobile phone calling usage. More recently, according to the Nielsen Customer Value Metrics, 2012, Americans send and receive on average 764.2 text messages monthly. They send and receive an average of 164.5 calls and 644.1 voice minutes per month. Even when people have voice calls, they are likely to multitask with hands-free or a Bluetooth device while doing something else on the phone. Phablets with larger screens support a trend for customers that want to do more as they reduce the number of voice calls.
Smartphone behaviour has shifted away from voice towards browsing, reading, writing, purchasing, gaming and consuming apps, audio and video. Big beautiful screens are more desirable for such activities. According to Nielsen, the app categories where people spent the most time in 2013 are communications (29 per cent), social (28 per cent) and productivity/function (11 per cent) in the U.S. If consumption of media and apps remain popular, phablets with large screens will cut into tablet market share.
Phablets are powerful today with their processing power and ability to do almost any task that used to be completed on a tablet or PC. Regarding specifications, the iPhone 6 Plus has an A8 processor chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture, two billion transistors and up to 50 per cent more energy efficiency than the previous version. The Note 4 (LTE version) and Nexus 6 both have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 32-bit quad core processor. Apple's phones run on iOS 8 while Google's Android devices run on 5.0 Lollipop.
2. Screen Size Matters
Phablets are getting bigger. The implication is that bigger is better if a customer can do more on a single device and not worry about having a laptop and tablet nearby. New York Times tech journalist, Farhad Manjoo, wrote an article about his experience using the iPhone 6 Plus as his main device for a week. Initially, Manjoo wanted to switch to a tablet or laptop. Since the phablet was nearby, his behaviour gradually changed. He says,
"I found myself falling into the habits of a phablet-only life. I caught up with email, researched my articles, read lots and lots of stuff on the web, worked with a few spreadsheets and, with the help of an add-on physical keyboard, even tried to write some of my articles on the 6 Plus.
Screen specs and resolution for the three leading phablets are as follows. The iPhone 6 Plus screen size is the smallest at 5.5 inches, followed by the Note 4 at 5.7 inches and the Nexus 6 at 5.9 inches. The iPhone 6 Plus has a retina HD LCD display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The Nexus 6 and the Note 4 both have a quad HD AMOLED display with a higher resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. The LCD screen uses less power while the AMOLED displays are sharper and brighter and do not require a backlight. Overall, all three models have exceptional screens.
Weight wise, the 6 Plus weighs 6.07 ounces followed by the Note 4 at 6.2 ounces with the Nexus 6 coming in at 6.49 ounces.
3. Battery life and rapid charging
Mitch Joel has written about a one-screen world. Joel believes that the only screen that matters is the screen that is in front of you. The content goes to a screen that can suit your lifestyle the best. Smartphone manufacturers are hoping customers choose the phablet screen as the most convenient and accessible, that helps them get things done.
If people do choose phablets as their main device, battery life becomes important. Phone batteries are the biggest complaint from customers. Phablet manufactures are listening and have found innovative ways to optimize battery life.
The average smartphone battery life reported in Tom's Guide is 8.22 hours. The iPhone 6 Plus battery test came in highest at 10 hours while the Galaxy Note 4 was 8.43. The Nexus 6 is too new for tests but predictions are between eight and nine and a half hours. The Nexus 6, which is manufactured by Motorola comes with a turbo charger that fills the battery with six hours of additional battery life in just 15 minutes. The Note 4 has a fast charging technology that takes 30 minutes to charge half the capacity of the battery.
4. One Hand Mode
The main drawback of phablets is that they are hard to use with one hand to reach all buttons. The manufacturers have a workaround software solution for one hand mode. The iPhone 6 Plus has a feature called reachability, which involves sliding the top of the screen down to the bottom by double tapping the home button. Samsung has better options for one-handed mode with a side key panel with a menu of icons that sit on the side of the phone that are easily accessible with your thumb. They can shrink the entire screen to an easy to manage one-handed size. The Nexus 6 does not presently have a one hand workaround.
In summary, every smartphone user is different and consumes in his or her own way. Most people agree they want fewer devices, which means fewer cords and chargers. If pocket computing anytime, anywhere along with big screens and longer battery life are important to you, you want to look at a phablet for your next smartphone purchase.
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