Life After Phablets: What's the next size trend in mobile?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| July 11, 2014


Just like any other industry in the world, the mobile industry goes through its phases - the good, the bad, the ugly. There are trends that last for years and there are trends that last for a couple of months at most. We’ve seen a lot of unique ideas come and go over the past decade or so when cell phones became so mainstream - just look at any of the quirky designs Nokia came up with, or some of the stranger designs from smartphones of yesteryear. On the other hand, we’ve also seen a lot of trends stick, like “phablet” sized slab-style smartphones.


Phablets are a relatively new thing. Just 4 years ago there were oohs and ahhs over just how large the HTC EVO 4G was. Not only was the EVO 4G the “first” 4G phone (running on WiMax, not LTE), but it was also a gargantuan compared to other phones with a massive 4.3-inch display. My older brother got the phone shortly after it was released, and I remember holding it in my hand and saying, “This is a ridiculous size for a smartphone, you know.” Little did I know that only a few years later we would be looking at phones that not only border the size of an actual tablet, but ones that actually match the 7-inch screen size.


I have to wonder if the trend will stick around, though. It would almost seem like there’s no way to turn back. The phablet revolution has without question taken over the industry, with “the bigger the better” mantra being followed almost like it was written in stone, and “no other way to go than up” following closely behind. But now that Samsung has finally hit what I would presume to be “the limit” with the 7-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy W, I do wonder if this signifies the end of the trend; it can’t possibly go any higher and be taken seriously, can it?


I wonder, and perhaps kind of hope, that manufacturers will start to wear down on the “bigger is better” mentality here soon. I like that there are big phones out there, because I know that not everybody is like me. But I also feel like phablets don’t need to be the only option for phones these days. I think some phones need to stay smaller. When I hold an iPhone 4S in my hand and I’m able to compare it to something like the HTC One M8 or the Moto X, there’s a noticeable difference. The 3.5-inch screen on the phone is small, comparitively speaking, but I still stand by the fact that for me the size is just perfect for one-handed use.


I think the next big trend in mobile is going to end up following Samsung’s lead, because it’s already kind of started. Samsung is notorious for releasing a ton of phones in varying sizes. Annoying? Yes, maybe, but I suppose you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Then you had HTC who offered the HTC One, HTC One Max, and the HTC One Mini. Sony also did something similar, and even Apple may be following the same trend if the rumors surrouding the iPhone 6 hold any truth to them.


The fact of the matter is that this industry isn’t a “One size fits all” type of deal; you’re going to have people like me who prefer the smaller phones, and you’re going to have other people who couldn’t care less if smaller phones fell off the face of the earth, never to return. I can say that I kind of like the direction this is going - I just wish that manufacturers would release all of the sizes they intend to release at the same time.


Readers, what are your thoughts on the next size trend in mobile? Do you think that phablets will continue to reign, or do you hope to see smaller phones resurface sometime in the near future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!