Battle of the big screens: Can phablets replace the smartphone and tablet?

There’s no denying smartphones are getting bigger and Samsung is leading this fad, but will phablets ever catch on for business?

In 2011, Samsung launched a 5.3in device, designed to replace a smartphone and tablet. Last year, the Korean manufacturer launched its second-generation Galaxy Note 2, with an even bigger 5.5in screen and this year it’s anticipated Samsung will launch the Note 3, with a 5.99in screen.

But do so-called phablets have a place in the workplace, or is it a consumer fad that will die out in the next couple of months?

There are specific job roles that almost demand the need of a tablet over a smartphone, because of the apps available.

With Samsung’s Galaxy Note series of devices, a new mobile world has been born. The phablet is not quite a smartphone, not a tablet, yet it is gaining momentum as people begin replacing their two devices for one.

Both Rob Bamforth, principle analyst at Quocirca and Richard Absalom, an analyst at Ovum’s consumer impact technology division, agree that phablets are almost impossible to use as smartphones and this may hinder any success phablets have in the workplace.

“A phablet is much more awkward in voice use and perhaps as a result seems more at risk of being dropped, with ensuing consequences,” says Bamforth.

He considers phablets to fit better into the tablet category rather than smartphones and doesn’t think these are smart enough yet to provide everything smartphone users. What’s more, phablets don’t have the operator support smartphones have, Bamforth adds.

“Cellular connectivity for tablets is still low on people's priorities - modus operandi for tablets is more personal than public,” he said.

“Mobile operators are only just starting to set reasonable tariffs for multi device operation, for example no extra charge for using a smartphone as a personal hotspot If operators continue to make these changes, it might mean a small cellular voice device such as a watch, plus larger Wi-Fi 'accessories’ such as a tablet on a single tariff has wide appeal.”

Therefore, there’s no need for a tablet or phablet to have its own cellular connection – people would have a device for making calls that wouldn’t add any bulk and a larger device to do things like browse and use apps.

However, Absalom disagrees that a cellular connection isn’t needed on a tablet. Research by Ovum shows tablets have a very specific use for some employees and in most of these applications, a data connection is required, and networks currently offer that for tablets.

“There are specific job roles that almost demand the need of a tablet over a smartphone, because of the apps available,” he says.

“We’ve seen it a lot in the insurance space with claims adjusters, for example. They can visit the client’s property or place of work, take a statement, take photos and update the claim online in real time, then move on to their next job.

“Field sales teams are also using tablets, especially in the farming space. It’s much easier to show a catalogue on a large screen – the pictures can simply be swiped through from within an application.”