This year, I've made it sufficiently clear that I love phablets. I may not have been a fan of behemoth phones when the original 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note was but a mere rumor, or even after the global version first hit shelves. But after several months of using the AT&T variant as my primary device, I fell in love with the extra large pocket computers.
Surprisingly, the Galaxy Note was a success. Despite being what was thought to be a very niche device, a nice portion of the general public found the 5.3-inch phone to be great, intriguing and even lustrous. Millions sold worldwide and a flock of angry Verizon customers hopelessly started a petition to get the gargantuan phone on Big Red, despite the fact that Samsung inked an exclusive deal with AT&T.
Now that the U.S. variants of the Galaxy Note II – headed to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular – are on the horizon, the hype train is moving full speed ahead. Phablet fans can't wait to get their hands on the second-gen phablet.
Seeing as the Galaxy Note was actually a success and not the failure it was expected to be, it was only a matter of time before other manufacturers would want to get in on the phablet market.
First was LG with the 5-inch Optimus Vu with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which we first saw in February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Then, at the beginning of last month, Verizon introduced the LG Intuition, a CDMA variant of the Optimus Vu. Needless to say, the Intuition is a phablet that leaves much to be desired.
LG, however, isn't the only company showing interest in excessively large smartphones. We have also heard talk of a 5-inch device from HTC. Specifically, HTC's mysterious phablet has been rumored to be headed to Verizon, feature a 5-inch 1080p display, 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, 1.5GB RAM, 16GB storage, a 12-megapixel rear shooter and a 2,500mAh battery to power everything.
This morning, HTC phablet rumors were laid to rest. The Taiwanese handset maker made its first phablet official, the HTC J Butterfly. Yes, that's right. J Butterfly. (Just when you think smartphone names couldn't get any worse …) And it's headed to Japan in red, black or white flavors.
Naming aside, the J Butterfly sounds pretty great on paper. It features: Sharp's 5-inch 1080p S-LCD3 display, 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, 8-megapixel rear shooter, 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera, 2,020mAh battery and Android 4.1 out of the box.
That said, it's falling into the very trap I suggested manufacturers should avoid just one month ago. It doesn't have nearly enough storage space and its battery is entirely too small, particularly for a device with such a power-hungry display.
As exhibited perfectly by the new iPad by Apple, a higher-resolution display isn't always as great as it seems. It may look gorgeous, but the requirements may outweigh the benefits of a uber crisp display. For example, a 5-inch 1080p display may measure roughly 440 pixels per inch versus the 294ppi on a 5-inch 720p panel, but it's also going to consume significantly more power. And the 1080p panel has over double the pixels to push, meaning it will require more processing and graphics power.
The problem? The 1080p display shouldn't be a problem for the quad-core S4 Pro chipset. I have no doubt the processor is more than capable of handling the workload. But the problem is battery life. My HTC One X has a 1,800mAh battery, a 4.7-inch 720p display and struggles to make it through the day. The One X+ has the same 4.7-inch 720p S-LCD2 panel as the One X, but it has a larger, 2,100mAh battery. The J Butterfly has a 5-inch display with over twice the pixels to push, yet it only has a 2,020mAh battery (compared to the 3,100mAh battery in the Galaxy Note II or 3,300mAh battery in the DROID RAZR MAXX HD). Even if Sharp's S-LCD3 panel is more power efficient than the S-LCD2 predecessor, I have a hard time believing the 2,020mAh battery will last a full day. I'm willing to bet most people will be plugging their J Butterfly up during their lunch breaks.
The other issue is storage space. The 16GB on the One X has served me pretty well. But in my six months with the phone, I can't begin to count the number of times I have been warned of being critically low on storage space. The problem here is that with a 1080p display, file sizes for applications and video content may be significantly larger. The Retina Display on the new iPad warranted install files up to five times larger than the previous install files. What's worse is there is no micro SD card slot. At the very least, if there is no option of expandable storage space, no manufacturer should drop internal storage below 32GB. It should be a standard, and 64GB should be the larger option. End of story.
Update: Our Alex Wagner brought to my attention that the J Butterfly does have a micro SD card slot for up to 32GB of additional storage space, as noted on the official J Butterfly product page.
Don't get me wrong, the J Butterfly looks fantastic, similar to the Windows Phone 8X. And that's a great thing. HTC has outclassed all of its Android competition in terms of design for the last four years. But while most of the specifications sound great, there are key features that HTC continually misses on, like respectively large batteries and low built-in storage space.
As it stands, I would rather put my money down for the Galaxy Note II, despite how little I care for TouchWiz (or how much I enjoy Sense of late). The J Butterfly – it's U.S. compatriot, rather – had potential to be my next smartphone. But HTC all but ruined it with serious oversight. Not to mention, 1080p (or 440ppi) is above and beyond anything discernible to the naked eye. It's a waste of power; HTC sacrificed the quality of this device to add another "first" to their tick list.
Do any of you feel differently, readers? Do you feel HTC knocked it out of the park? Are you anxious for the U.S. version to hit Verizon already? Or are you skeptical of this device's stamina or scanty storage space?
Image via The Verge