Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Pop Question: What's a Phablet? (Is the iPad Mini a Phablet?)

For a while now the 'industry' has been just inventing terminology for devices. The latest one is 'Phablet'.

Phone + Tablet = Phablet

Basically it's a device that is too big to be a phone and too small to be a true tablet. Here is "semi-official" breakdown of devices:

  • Phones - 5" or smaller display
  • Phablet - >5" and <7" display
  • Tablet - 7" or larger display

Phones today range up in size to largest phones like today's HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5. On the smaller end they are like the cheaper "free" with contract Android phones or smaller HTC One SV or Samsung SIII (S3) Mini.  They are generally cellular devices, used regularly as phones and kept on the individual at all times.

Tablets today range up in size to 10"-ish devices like Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Google Nexus 10 or iPad 3. On the smaller end they are like Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7"), Kindle Fire or iPad Mini. They are mostly used on WiFi or data-only devices, and often used in landscape (and not portrait) mode.

Phablets are the compromise between the two worlds. While other 5"-ish sized devices existed first, the forerunner for Phablets was the Dell Steak 5 (which died in 2011) which was unique in that it was bigger than a phone, but still could be used as a phone. 

However in my mind, the real 'King' of Phablets now is Samsung Galaxy Note and Note II (2). What makes it unique to me is not so much the size, but the EMR stylus which I mentioned in a previous post here.

Practically what does this mean? I don't really develop directly for Phablets. In reality I treat them as Phones, since the overall dimensions more resemble a Phone

For example, Samsung S4, a definitely Phone format is:
  • 5" Display
  • 16:9 Ratio
  • 1080 x 1920 Pixels
For example, Samsung Note II, a Phablet format is:
  • 5.5" Display
  • 16:9 Ratio
  • 720 x 1280 Pixels
Therefore the Note II is basically about 10% larger diagonally and lower number of pixels (but identical to the older SIII, which was 720 x 1280 pixels). The difference is **nominal**. (The Galaxy Tabs have 5:8 ratio which is much more "squat".)

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (left), Galaxy Note II (middle) and Galaxy S4 (right)
Have a look at the low-res snapshot above. Which one do you think the Note II more resembles? Tablet or Phone?

So practically... for me... from a mobile app development point of view, there is still just Phones and Tablets

Lastly, is the iPad Mini a Phablet? In my mind "no". It's well in the Tablet 7"+ space (7.9" to be exact) and it keeps the full-sized iPad ratio of 4:3. So for me, Phablets are pratically *only* an Android concept right now. 

For Apple, there are only iPads and iPhones. No iPhablets. Yet. j/k.

Hope that helps...


p.s. For a great list of screen size, density and ratios, this Wikipedia page below is great. I use it all the time and it's fairly up-to-date and has almost all the most common devices:

The other list I usually use is off Blundell's blog, which is also updated very regularly. 


  1. Its very interesting post, good job.

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