In the beginning, there was the mobile phone. And it was good.
So good, in fact, manufacturers began packing more and more features into each handset.
Over time, basic handsets evolved into web-enabled and app-powered smartphones.
In 2010, Apple introduced us to the concept of tablets – effectively a cross between a laptop and a smartphone – with the revolutionary iPad.
A year later, Samsung revealed the Galaxy Note.
Resembling either a super-sized smartphone or a miniature tablet, the term ‘phablet’ was quickly coined to describe Samsung’s creation.
Like the iPad, the Galaxy Note’s success persuaded other manufacturers to enter this rapidly-growing marketplace.
We’re now a decade on from the Galaxy Note’s debut, and most smartphone manufacturers sell devices with screen sizes ranging from 5.5 to 7.0 inches.
However, the boundaries between device categories are becoming increasingly blurred. At what point does a conventional smartphone achieve the status of a phablet?
A quick definition
To qualify as a phablet, a device needs to have a diagonal screen measurement somewhere between 5.1 and 7.0 inches.
The vast majority of screens measure around six inches across, and 5.5 inches has become the smallest size associated with this sector.
(High-end smartphones tend to have screens just below five inches, to maintain a distinction and to ensure they fit into trouser pockets and clutch bags).
Screen ratios tend to be either 18:9 or 19.5:9, ensuring content has a cinematic appearance.
The phab four
Four companies have led the way in developing and marketing phablets – Samsung, Apple, Huawei and the parent company of both OnePlus and Oppo.
In the last six years, almost every smartphone manufacturer has introduced a super-sized model into its line-up.
Products like the Google Nexus and LG Stylo occupy a middle ground between the portability of phones and the practicality of tablets.
Their intention is to provide a display large enough to enjoy multimedia activities like gaming and web browsing, while still being able to make and receive calls.
They’re specifically intended for screen-intensive activities, like handwriting using a stylus.
Should I consider one?
Ultimately, this is a personal decision – not least because the size of your hands could be a deciding factor.
A device with a six-inch screen can’t be operated one-handed, and people with small fingers might find holding and using it tricky even with both hands.
Nevertheless, the stunning visuals served up by those larger screens are ideal for streaming video or gaming.
This media-oriented approach is often supported by higher levels of RAM and battery life than conventional smartphones.
These are the smallest devices which justify using a stylus – a vital accessory for certain applications.
Finally, investing in a phablet might save you having to buy both a smartphone and a tablet.
Despite being more expensive than a conventional phone, that makes them a tempting proposition for people with limited finances.