0298_what_is_phablet_768x432_mainI saw this article on re/code about phablet use, and none of is seemed surprising to me. I also didn’t agree with all of it. Check the page URL for the article: phablets aren’t just eating tablets’ lunch, they’re changing behavior (which wasn’t the same as the article headline–interesting).

Do remember that this is the same site that published an article on how our love affair with tablets is over.

Okay, let’s step back a moment. The data on phablet use was interesting. Social networking was more than 50% of the usage, which didn’t surprise me. My iPhone 4S is a bit small for Facebook or Twitter, though they work in a pinch. However, I was in a client meeting, and my client had a Galaxy Note 3. Twitter looked good on it. I found myself with a (brief) case of phablet envy. So if smartphone is too small, what about social media on a tablet? Well, while the larger screen size is nice, most people don’t have cellular-enabled tablets, and lots of social media is done on the go, so, no, tablets aren’t really right either. Even tethering doesn’t quite cut it for the quick on/off nature of social media.

phablet use

What other things did people use phablets for? From the article:

“What we discovered is people now want to use their [phablets] for both purposes — to run around town, use the map, check email, text a friend that you’re running late,” Swanson said. “Then they were also using it at home, sometimes instead of a tablet, for checking social media.”

Makes complete sense to me. What I found interesting is that phablets aren’t used much for news, information or checking sports. People use their smartphones for those functions, which seemed odd to me. I would have thought the larger screen would have made a difference.

Does this mean phablets are eating tablets’ lunch? I’m not convinced. The data says to me that there is a need for both a tablet-sized device and one roughly the size of a smartphone. Where did tablets excel in usage? Games, music and media. A phablet isn’t big enough for a good video device. Arguably, it could be a good gaming device, but it looks like people don’t use them that way. Tablets are also better work devices than phones or phablets. I like my 10″ screen for writing, and I think other people do as well. If the rumored iOS 8 multitasking happens, iPads are going to be even better work machines.

It seems that the tech world is too focused on either/or. I use both my phone and my tablet(s) extensively. I don’t want one device because I’d have to give something up, either portability when I need it or screen size when I need that. While phablets are interesting devices, and I occasionally consider upgrading to one, I don’t see tablets going away soon. Now, when we have displays that project from our phone? That would be something!


  1. We’re running headlong into gadget overload. The more gadgets we have, the more trouble managing them becomes. That’s particularly true with mobile devices, which need to be charged regularly.

    Some are getting rid of their desktop and using a laptop as their only computer. Those who need a desktop with two large screens (like me) wonder if a tablet eliminates the need for a laptop. After all, it will work just as well for on-the-go writing. And those who find themselves carrying a tablet and a smartphone about wonder if they could manage with just a larger screen smartphone. The only necessary device on this list is probably a cell phone of some sort.

    If Apple releases an iWatch, it may hit a similar wall. Is it worth the bother of a specialized watch to be spared the slight effort of pulling out a cell phone? There are already people who think that a cell phone spares them the bother of wearing a watch.

    I suspect none of these technologies will go away. It’s not like they’re Sony Walkmans after the iPod hits the market. There an older product was confronted with a newer one that did the same thing far better. These are devices with overlapping ranges of use. Each has advantages and disadvantages with no clear winner.

    –Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride

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