Although the word ‘phablet’ was once a much derided term that often evoked a dry sneer on the face of the average smartphone user, the truth is that the tide is already turning, and the smartphone is set to lose.
Acting not only as a bridge between two closely opposed worlds, the phablet is now an essential part of the multimedia experience; offering a range of advantages, from battery life and screen quality, through to computing power and efficiency.
What’s more, Business Insider reckons that the phablet shall outsell the trusted smartphone by 2017, but with that in mind, where in the past few years has the phablet come from?
An Awkward Birth
The truth is that no one really knows when the phablet first came about, as the term was probably birthed at a point when the first example was already residing in some distant cupboard. By looking through Google Trends it is possible to see a rise in the search term during January 2012, just after the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note in October 2011.
That said, the term was also used in a Telecom TV article in 2010 to describe the Dell Streak. Other people across the internet also claim to have coined the term at some point, but the term itself should be of little interest.
The real question is, “what was the first phablet?”
To answer this, it is probably best to also search out the first tablet computer, which arguably, could have been the Styalator, which was released in the 1950s and was capable of real-time handwriting recognition.
Apple released its first tablet in 1993, the Newton OS, which also recognised handwriting, but this was simply prehistoric compared the first recognisable tablet, which hit the shelves in the form of the Microsoft Tablet PC in 2002.
Five years later, the HTC Advantage was released and was according to some, the very first phablet device, which ran on Windows Mobile, offered a 5 inch LED screen and a 3.0MPx camera. It also came with a keyboard.
The next notable introduction was the aforementioned Dell Streak, which was impressive in some respects, but glitched incessantly, was considered bulky, and had no choice but to compete against better made tablet computers and smartphone devices such as the Galaxy Tab and the iPhone 4.
Although the Dell Streak died a quick death, which could have ended the phablet phenomenon there and then, the original Galaxy Note was released in October 2011, selling two million units in the first two months of sales.
After releasing a Note version with LTE support, by August 2012, the Note had sold 10 million units worldwide and the Galaxy Note II was released just a month later.
Although the Galaxy Note was actually a roaring success, it did not stop the media from criticising the device.
In 2012, Wired.com wrote that: “The large screen also makes a chore out of using the on-screen keyboard and menus. It’s too wide to type or scroll comfortably with the thumb of one hand, so the Galaxy Note quickly shows itself to be a two-handed device. For a smartphone, this is a no-no. There were too many times when I needed to thumb my way through text messages, menus or web pages with one hand.”
All Things D gave a similarly unimpressed review, saying that: “As a mobile phone, the Galaxy Note is positively gargantuan. It’s almost 6 inches long and over 3 inches wide. When you hold it up to your ear, it pretty much covers the entire side of your face. You look like you’re talking into a piece of toast.”
To the future
Despite initial mockery and ridicule, the phablet is now held firmly within our hands, with IHS reporting that there were 25.6 million phablets sold in 2012, and Reuters named 2013 “the year of the phablet.”
The Galaxy Note 4 was also released in October this year and sold 4.5 million units in the first month.
IHS estimated that there will be 146 million phablet sales in 2016 and Barclays projected 230 million phablet sales in 2015.