“Phablets are dumb”. I have said that in conversation more than once, and anyone who has ever heard the marketing buzzword has most likely doled out the same brand of judgement. But lo: in the time that we have been scorning the “phablet” as something marketers thought were cool, they’ve actually become great. Now it’s time for 7-inch Android tablets to worry, as the Age Of The Small Tablet comes to a close.
Mobile World Congress is coming up in a few weeks, meaning that Barcelona will become the capital of smartphone geekdom. But I don’t think we’re going to see many (if any) 7- to 8-inch Android tablets this year: they’ve all been killed off by the phablet.
And if they haven’t, they’re certainly living on borrowed time. Let me explain.
Take the original Nexus 7 for example. A great device by any measure, moulded into a bespoke Google tablet out of something from Asus. It was great at the time because it was cheap, simple and yet felt like a high-quality device. It was a tablet apart from its rivals, which costed hundreds of dollars more for arguably less in terms of quality, speed and looks.
A price war kicked off where manufacturers like Samsung and Acer tried to drive prices down to compete with the big-G, but never quite cracked it.
Meanwhile, as everyone was distracted by shiny tablets and the promise of cheaper, more efficient computing, phone manufacturers were quietly tooling away, making the phablet something that people would actually want, and then one day people realised something.
For some reason, despite the fact that the use of cellular networks for both calls and texts is declining in favour of a data-driven world, most consumers still want to be able to make a call from their device the old fashioned way: by opening up a dialler and punching in the numbers. Combine that with the fact that carrying one device is infinitely preferable than carrying a small tablet and a medium phone, and you see that the market is ripe for phablets.
Phablets needed a year or two to straighten themselves out and figure out what they were for. Now we’ve figured out that they’re for viewing your content in glorious 1080p or something close to it. They’re for playing videos, capturing photos, watching whatever you want wherever you’re going, and taking notes about everything once you get there. Manufacturers realised that they were a one-stop shop, more than a tablet could ever be.
Large-format phones like the Galaxy Note range, the Xperia Z Ultra, the LG G2 and G-Flex and even a few devices from Huawei are now running this town, and 7-inch Android tablets should be running scared.
The new battleground for small tablets? Someone who can make Windows 8.1 work on an 8-inch screen. Game on!