Have you replaced your tablet with a phablet?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| December 9, 2013

It's been a few years now since we've had a pretty definitive line between what is a tablet and what isn't. The most popular big-screened devices are running the same version of software as their smartphone counterparts, for one thing. But that's not even the most offending cause of our confusion. It's the fact that we've simply allowed manufacturers to invade our stores with devices that feature huge displays. Yes. I said it. It's our fault.

And we should take responsibility for it.

In all seriousness, just look at the market a little over three years ago. Apple's iPad had pretty much redefined the tablet industry, and every manufacturer out there that had any kind of connection to the mobile market looked to jump on the bandwagon. We got all sorts of different kinds of devices, and with it varying screen sizes and software.

Dell released the Dell Streak, and the five-inch screen size of the original was big enough for many to firmly place it within the tablet category back in 2010. Yep. Five inches. Sound familiar? That's the same screen size as Samsung's popular Galaxy S4, and that is certainly, definitely not a tablet.

We've allowed this to happen, folks. We've shown manufacturers that we love big phones with big displays, and so now we've got devices that reflect that desire. HTC's One has a 4.7-inch display, and while it's not 5-inches, it's close enough. And then there's the fact that a smartphone/tablet crossover like the Galaxy Note 3 has a screen size bigger than the Dell Streak at 5.7-inches.

This is where it gets really confusing, though. Because let's get one thing clear: not every big-screened device is a phablet. It just doesn't work like that, because that's ridiculous. A phablet, since that's the popular term for it, is a hybrid device of a phone and a tablet, which means there has to be features from both categories. Or similarities, anyway. There are a lot of big screen devices available to date, but almost all of them aren't phablets. They're just really big phones.

For example: Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 offers up tablet-like features, including being able to run two apps at once in a split-screen fashion, as well as stylus support out of the box. The Galaxy Mega 6.3, which has a display size of six-point-three-inches, is just a big phone. It doesn't do any of the tablet-inspired things that the Galaxy Note 3 does, but it has a substantially larger screen.

One is a phablet, one is a phone with a gigantic screen.

There's another big-screened device that's recently landed in the wild, and that's Nokia's Lumia 1520. A device that bears plenty of similarities between it and its smaller Lumia siblings, but with one major difference: a 6-inch display. This makes it the biggest Windows Phone-based device available, but also one of the biggest devices on the market in general. So, what's the pull of that big screen? Are there any features that Microsoft included to make it seem like you're using a tablet and a phone at the same time?

Nope. You'll get the same version of Windows Phone 8 that you'd see on other devices, like the Lumia 1020. The only difference is the larger display, and plenty of tweaks to the specifications list.

Then what's the draw? Can it honestly just be the big display? I've tried to use a phone with a bigger display with the Galaxy Mega 6.3, and I honestly just found it completely uncomfortable in every day usage. As a primary tablet, which I'm not using almost constantly thanks to texting, messaging, searching, or whatever else, it would be fine. But, as a primary device? It just got too big for its own good.

I honestly believe there should be a distinction between a phablet and a big smartphone, but apparently that's not going to happen. So, while I've made my remarks on why it should be this way, I'll forfeit that argument for now. Which means I'll have to call the Lumia 1520 a phablet, as well as other smartphones with huge displays. Fine.

I'm going to try a different device here soon, once I get my hands on the Lumia 1520, and I'm going to try again. There were some software decisions on the Galaxy Mega 6.3 that may have ruined the experience for me, and maybe I'll have a different overall result with the Windows Phone big screen experience.

The question I have for you, though, is whether or not a big-screened device, something like a Galaxy Note 3 or even the Lumia 1520, has made you consider getting rid of your tablet altogether. Is a device that you can use everywhere as your primary device with your phone number worth using over an "extra" tablet? Let me know what you think.