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iPhone or Phablet, the race is on

I’ve had my beady eye on a Samsung Galaxy Note ever since I first saw one on the Tube between Green Park and Piccadilly Circus. If I were not committed to the Apple eco-system I could be tempted.

Stephen Hackett of 512Pixels announced two months ago that he was giving up on his iPhone, mainly to cut down the time he spent chimping at the screen when he could have been indulging in human interfacing. Now his iPhoneless experiment has ended prematurely, ten months shy of the target. Here he explains his decision.

I sympathise with him. But my concern is not that I spend too much time with the phone, rather that I am using it less and less since I started carrying my new iPad mini around. As I have mentioned before, I make few phone calls these days. The mini does everything I need except make calls and send text messages over the cellular network, so I do begin to wonder why I need two devices.


Today I conducted a Hackett experiment. I forgot my iPhone and had to make do with just an iPad mini for a whole day. Imagine. I couldn’t make any phone calls, of course, but I managed well, with email as a last resort.

What I really need is not a phone and an iPad mini but a tweener device. Let’s call it a phablet. Everyone else does. Natasha Lomas of TechCrunch believes phablets are the new norm.

Phablets are those monster phones with 5in-plus screens that everyone laughed at when they appeared last year. Now, it seems, phablets will more than double their market share in 2013. I see increasing numbers in hands around London and no one seems to be having trouble with the larger screen. In fact, several friends have told me how much they prefer the extra screen estate.

Two contracts

Which brings us back to the iPhone and the iPad mini. That’s two devices to carry around. More to the point, though, it is two cellular contracts to pay for. How much more convenient would it be if we had just the one device that was capable of making the occasional phone call but which excellent at web browsing, texting and email?

Apple is rumoured to be working on a 4.8in iPhone. If so, it will be a step in the right direction; but perhaps a step too short. I can’t help feeling that such a device, if it does appear, will be the miniest of phablets. Competitors are already pushing the limits and it will not be long before we see a six-inch screened phablet. It will sell, of that I have no doubt.

Year of the phablet

Even the iPad mini would do me as an all-in one communications device. All it needs is a phone app and I could cope with it for the very few times I need to make a voice call. Whatever our views, 2013 should be a watershed year that could see the eclipse of the smartphone as we know it. It is shaping up to be the year of the phablet.

by Mike Evans, 21 January 2013