It’s no secret that phones are getting bigger. The original iPhone had a 3.5in screen, and that seemed big back in 2007. Fast-forward to 2013 and the 4in iPhone 5 has one of the smallest screens of the current crop of smartphones. Rumours are rife that Apple will launch two iPhones this year – a 4.8in monster, and an iPhone mini, perhaps returning to the 3.5in screen of yesteryear.
However, even a 4.8in iPhone will look small next to the array of ‘phablets’ that will go on sale this year. A combination of phone and tablet, a so-called phablet is an in-betweener device with a screen somewhere between 5- and 6.5 inches.
The Samsung Galaxy Note with its whopping 5.3in screen was the first phablet to hit it off with consumers. It’s taken a couple of years, but other smartphone makers are now following suit. Samsung has already launched the 5.5in Note 2, while Sony, Huawei and ZTE are expected to release 5in phablets with full-HD resolutions in 2013. (See Sony Xperia Z hands-on review)
Phablets are more popular than you might think: according to IHS, 25.6 million phablets were sold in 2012. It predicts sales of more than 60 million phablets in 2013.
We ran our own poll, to which more than 1,000 of you, our dear readers, responded. The results tally with this prediction: 35 percent said they’d buy a phablet this year, and 7 percent already own one. Roughly half said they wouldn’t be buying one, and the rest were undecided.
You’ve got to feel sorry for Dell in all this. The Galaxy Note wasn’t actually the first phablet; in June 2010, Dell launched the Streak, which had a 5in screen. Presumably, it failed because people weren’t ready for a phone this big. The even larger Streak 7 was onsale only for a few months in 2011.
Phablets look set to become big business in 2013, so expect to see people holding giant phones to their ears - and likely shouting, Dom Joly-style, into them - in the very near future.