Why a phablet?

For a generation raised on ever-smaller devices, the “phablet” craze doesn’t make any sense. Didn’t we leave gigantic cell phones behind in the 1980s? Younger folks are snapping up these half phone, half tablet devices in droves, and the market segment is growing faster than any other this year.

There’s definitely something to like about the phablet. It’s a phone, so its cellular data and voice work anywhere. For baby-boomer and older gen-X eyes, the larger screen is getting to be a necessity, while text and media-happy millennials care less about voice calls and more about what’s on the screen.

Is that the real reason phablets are taking off? ExtremeTech has another idea. The fact is simply that there hasn’t been a massive improvement in battery technology in a long time, and maybe it’s just that you can’t fit an all-day battery in a small modern phone anymore. Certainly not if you are trying to give it all the must-have features like high-speed internet and GPS. Phones must get larger because there’s no way to keep them small.

Whatever the reason, phablets are big business this year. That same article suggests that 146 million of them will fly into consumer hands next year… not bad for a segment that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Unlike the smartphone revolution, it’s Google not Apple that’s leading the charge; Apple has stubbornly kept to a small screen for its iPhone and only reluctantly released the iPad mini (although it’s been Apple’s biggest winner this year.) It’s been content to leave the large phone segment to the competition.

Rumors of the next iPhone suggest that it will be no larger than the current phone, meaning that it could be another year or more before Apple gets into the phablet business. It’s possible, of course, that Apple has a true surprise up its sleeve, and that all those leaked photos are just a ruse or a small part of Apple’s strategy. More and more, though, that seems like wishful thinking. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a phablet, it’s go Android or go home.