They can be about the same size as a 6-inch Subway sandwich, pickles and honey mustard included, of course. Samsung's Galaxy Mega, in particular, is the same length as a Grande Iced Coffee from Starbucks, straw not included. They can be longer than the length of your face, your hand or your pocket.
I'm talking about big phones. Really, really big phones. In just the past few weeks, Nokia, HTC and LG have released phones with 5.5- to 6-inch displays, and more are on the way, as Microsoft and Android have the software features to support the longer and wider displays.
Because these phones look as big as tablets, some have started to call them phablets – a portmanteau of the words phone and tablet. But what's the purpose of these mammoth handsets, and should you start buying pants with bigger pockets?
|A What? What Is a Phablet?|
You can think of these devices as the product of a one-night stand between your phone and your tablet. Thus, that word Phablet.
While tablets range in size from 7 to 10 inches, phones have started to span from 3.5 to 5 inches. Phablets come in right between those two categories, with 5- to 6.5-inch screens.
Samsung's Galaxy Mega, with its 6.3-inch screen, is currently the largest of the phablets for sale. HTC's One Max, which was announced last week, has a 5.9-inch screen and Nokia's Lumia 1520 has a 6-inch display. Samsung's Galaxy Note, which is by far the most popular of these new big-screen phones, has a 5.5-inch screen. Most of those displays have a 1080p or 1920 x 1080 resolution, meaning that you get a very crisp and high-quality picture on the expanded display.
But while some of these phablets might look like tablets, they are phones through and through. They are sold as phones at carriers like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon with two-year contracts, and they have all the same phone capabilities as other smartphones -- they can make phone calls, send texts, receive voicemail. Good luck, though, hitting the call button with one hand.
|Why in the World Would I Want One?|
The obvious answer to "Why would I want one of these?" is "the bigger screen." While the sheer size may seem ridiculous to some, the idea is that instead of carrying around a phone and a tablet, you carry just one device.
The big screen does have some clear advantages though, especially if there is software to take advantage of the increased resolution.
Better for watching movies, looking at photos – The 1080p resolution is not only great for watching videos and looking at photos but also for showing them to others. That might seem like a funny reason to get one of these, but you could say that a bunch of people gathering around a 4-inch screen to see the hilarious YouTube video of a man dressed as a dinosaur looks funny.
More real estate for browsing and typing – That higher resolution also means more screen space for browsing the web or seeing more of an app. And for those with big mits or fingers, the keyboard is wider and more spacious.
Samsung's App and Pen tricks – Samsung does a really good job of adding features that take advantage of the roomy display. With its Galaxy Note, it has added a stylus so you can take handwritten notes in a number of apps. It adds an entirely new dimension to the phone, one that is enabled by having more touchscreen space.
Its Galaxy Mega and its Galaxy Note 3 also have a Multi Windows feature that allows you to look at two apps side by side on the screen. For instance, you can look at a webpage on the left hand side of the screen while you take notes or write an email on the right.
|Who Are They Really For?|
But do I need a phone that's the same size as a small pony? Certainly, if you've got large hands the phone will seem like a good fit, but for those with smaller hands it can be a stretch. Literally -- it is very hard for me to reach the call button on the Mega with one hand.
Companies such as HTC say I shouldn't assume that the One Max will be more popular with men. They claim women are attracted to the bigger screens and portability is less of an issue, since most women carry purses or bags.
Still, many women – eh hem, me – put their phones in their pockets, and the Galaxy Mega and HTC One Max don't easily fit. Most men can fit the 6-inch phones in their jeans, though Dockers recently said that the average pocket size is 4 x 4 inches.
Luckily, you don't necessarily need to have deep pockets in the figurative sense for these phones. They cost about the same as other smartphones. The Galaxy Mega costs $150 at AT&T with a two-year contract, the Galaxy Note is $299 and the HTC One Max will likely be priced somewhere in between those when it arrives at Sprint and Verizon later this year.
Ultimately, carrying a phone that's bigger than your face might not be for you -- phones in the 4.5- to 5-inch range are likely better for most. But it's very clear that the days of phones getting smaller and smaller are over. Bigger screens mean more capabilities -- you and your pockets should prepare.