Phablets: phailure?

A phablet (David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / January 16, 2013)

We all remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Porridge: too hot, too cold, just right. Chairs: too large, too small, just right. Bed: too hard, too soft, just right.

Goldilocks, meet the phablet.

A portmanteau of “phone” and “tablet,” the phablet is meant to be “just the right size” for today’s mobile device users. Big enough to read a book or magazine like a tablet, but small enough to fit in a purse or pocket like a phone.

And they’re all the craze—in fact, ABI Research predicts that by 2015, consumers will buy twice as many phablets as they did in 2012. 208 million of them, in fact.

(I know—many of you have never heard of the phablet, and suddenly you’ll be buying twice of many of them in just two years! Who knew?)

Phablets aren’t small by any means. They have screens in the range of 4.5-5.5 inches. By contrast, Barnes and Nobles’ original Nook e-reader tablet has a 6-inch screen. This is a lot of real estate to fit in the front pocket of your blue jeans.

My opinion is that phablets aren’t that phabulous. We clearly have two consumer objectives that can’t be met simultaneously: small mobile device size combined with a large screen. Call it the immovable object vs. the irresistible force.

One simply can’t expect to read the New York Times on a device small enough to function as a phone, or for it to be small enough to make it convenient to tote around.

We need a technological breakthrough. You know: a microwave oven. A compact disc. Something that gives us the best of everything.

NTT DoCoMo Medias W N-05E

David Zax of the MIT Technology Review gives an overview of a potential solution—a dual-screen smart phone. It opens like a book, revealing two side-by-side screens.

Voila. Phone size. Tablet screen. Says Zax, “What I want–what everyone wants, I think–is the screen real estate of a tablet, with the convenience of a device that fits in your pocket.”

Yes. That.

Until the gadget makers of the world get this figured out, we’re never going to have that one universal device that can do it all—the Tricorder from Star Trek, if you will. The way things stand now, I’m afraid we’re going to look back on 2013, laugh, and say, “Do you remember how silly we all looked trying to read on our cell phones? Or use the Internet? Thank goodness the (insert your own portmanteau) came along.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *