If you haven’t yet head of “phablets,” you might want get familiar with them because ABI Research expects 208 million of them to sell in 2015. Thanks to more media consumption and web browsing consumers may shift from one- to two-handed use for these larger devices.


If you haven’t yet heard of “phablets,” you might want get familiar with them, because ABI Research expects 208 million to sell in 2015. The word is a combination of “phone” and “tablet,” just like ABI’s definition, which is a smartphone with a tablet-like large screen. Specifically, phones with displays ranging in size from 4.6 to 5.5 inches fit this category for ABI.

I’m not a fan of the term ABI is using, but there is some recent precedent for the research firm’s sales estimates, which also include a tenfold rise in shipments this year from last. Samsung’s Galaxy Note is probably the best-known example of such a device, due to its 5.3-inch display. By the end of March, the company sold 5 million Galaxy Note handsets in just five months, with the bulk of those sales overseas. AT&T began to sell the Note with LTE support in mid February, and my review showed a capable Android device that’s large but still pocketable.

Regardless of what we call these devices or exactly what the range of screen sizes should be for them, I think ABI is on to something here. With rich media consumption on the rise on mobile devices — particularly as we get faster 4G networks and more Wi-Fi networks to supplement them — a larger display is desirable. The same can be said for Web browsing, which is one of the most popular activities on a mobile: Why scroll and zoom when a larger display minimizes such efforts?

Provided these handsets are still pocketable, consumers will adopt them because they combine the portability of a smartphone with the more immersive experience found in a tablet. That’s not to say 10-inch slate sales will fall; these fit a totally different use case for most, as they are less portable and are better suited for casual computing or consumption in a given location. A recent Viacom study, for example, found that 74 percent of tablet use is in the home.

As far as the definition of a “phablet,” I think ABI is spot-on with the screen size. Why? This gets back to the key question I suggested people ask themselves with regards to the Galaxy Note’s size: Are you a one-handed or two-handed smartphone user? Screens this large will require many to use two hands for typing and navigation, much like a tablet. I have always been a two-handed smartphone user, so the Note and my 4.65-inch Galaxy Nexus work perfectly for me. But if you’re set on one-handed smartphone use, these aren’t the devices for you, as I illustrate here:

And what about that name? I’m sure we’ll never get ABI to call them something other than “phablets,” but surely we can do better than that. I was thinking “small slabs that fit in your pocket,” although that’s a bit long. Got suggestions on a name? Drop ‘em in the comments and maybe we can start a movement to ditch the word “phablet”!

  1. Peter Mullen Thursday, May 24, 2012

    I think smarblet is a better descriptor for the form factor. Phablet is a stupid word.

  2. I don’t get these big phones. For me I think 4.2″ is the max size for a phone. I’ve not tried the Note but it seems to be a jack of all trades master of none. Personally I’d like a 4″ phone, 7″ tablet (still pocket-able) and a 10″ Transformer Prime-like Windows 8 machine but maybe I’m being greedy!

    1. A phone, a tablet and something small with a keyboard that can drive external monitors. That may be the future lineup. The past is the phone, a laptop and a desktop machine. Part of the inevitable miniaturization and a way point on the road to ubiquitous wearable computing.

  3. Why not call them ‘Taphs’ ie Tablet Phones.

  4. Peter da Silva Thursday, May 24, 2012

    I call them “That’s a -ing big phone”.

  5. I wonder if these are more commonly bought as alternatives to tablets or phones?

    I have noticed when traveling in some countries that many people carry a small basic phone for calls and a second smartphone with for data only(or mostly). I wonder how many of these are that data only/mostly second phone.

  6. Okay… can’t resist this one… it even has the right first three letters… Is that a phablet in your pocket or are you just…

  7. take part of what you said and we can call them slabs :) instead of phablets

  8. Roshan Shrestha Friday, May 25, 2012

    Phablet reminds me of “Phallus”! PhonePad, or PadPhone (or PadFone, I think already used by Asus) is a better name.

  9. Call them smartbooks…


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