March 10, 2014, 4:51 PM — The big news at this year's Mobile World Congress was a new generation of phablets like the LG Optimus G Pro 2, the ZTE Grand Memo II, the Huawei MediaPad X1 and others. Here's why your next phone might be a phablet like them.
First, let's start off with the basics: How large does a phone's screen have to be before it crosses the line from big smartphone to phablet? In some ways, phablets are in the eyes of the beholder. But one good starting benchmark size is the one from the research firm NPD Group that defines a phablet as a phone with a screen larger than 5.3 inches.
There are plenty of phablets larger than that. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which essentially created the phablet market, for example, has a 5.7-inch screen. And the Huawei MediaPad X1 has a whopping 7-inch screen.
And there are plenty of phones just beneath the phablet threshhold that will likely in future releases grow into phablets. For example, just-announced Samsung Galaxy S5 is close to phablet size, at 5.1 inches. I would expect that the next generation or so of the phone will push it to phablet size.
Why would you want a phablet? If you care about productivity, there's one big reason: Size. Using productivity apps such as office suites on smaller phones is quite difficult. On phablets, the experience isn't that much different than it is on small-size tablets.
Also useful are phablets like the Note 3 that have a stylus for input. That makes a tremendous difference when it comes to document creation, particularly if you draw or mark up documents.
And there's another reason as well: Once you get a phablet, you don't need to carry a tablet as well as your phone. One device will do. Think phablets are too small to do the work you want? Consider this: Not long ago, people were saying that about tablets, and tablets have been dramatically eating into PC sales.
Phablet sales are starting to boom, at least in Asia. IDC says that in the last year in China, 20 percent or more of all smartphones had screens of five inches or larger, a number that will grow by 2017 to 50 percent. In the U.S. phablet sales haven't been nearly as good -- the NPD Group said that only 4 percent of smartphone sales in the U.S. were phablets in the fourth quarter of this year. But that will change, especially if Apple releases a larger phone or even a phablet, as people expect it to do.
So admit it, you've probably been eying a phablet lately, even if in the past you looked at them snidely. The famous selfie taken with the Galaxy Note 3 at the Academy Awards may have had something to do with that. But no matter the reason, your next phone may well be a phablet.