David vs. Goliath: Is the smartphone trying to kill the tablet?

Remember when phones were tiny? Those were the days. Now handsets are moving way past being pocket friendly, and we think we know why.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen three mobile phone handsets that we’d consider “large”. These are the new Motorola RAZR, HTC Sensation XL, and the Samsung Galaxy Note (we had a quick play with it from another journo, sadly no photos).

Google and Samsung's Galaxy Nexus

Each of these handsets were massive in our hands. For instance, the RAZR features a 4.3 inch screen, the same size as what’s on the Samsung Galaxy S2 and HTC Evo 3D, and yet the overall size feels much larger.

Recently, Samsung and Google launched a new flagship Android phone, the Galaxy Nexus. This handset boasts a 4.65 inch 720p screen, although because the phone takes advantage of the new “Ice Cream Sandwich” edition of Android (4.0), there are no soft-buttons, meaning that most of the front of the handset is the touchscreen.

Still though, 4.65 inches diagonally is pretty big.

With a screen size measuring 4.7 inches diagonally, the HTC Sensation XL isn't exactly small.


What then of HTC’s Vodafone launched Sensation XL? It launched overnight here in Australia, and it features a 4.7 inch screen. That’s bigger again, and we’re not even sure we have the pockets for that.

And then there’s Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Note, the 5.3 inch tablet-phone hybrid that should be landing here in the new year. With a screen size that goes well and truly beyond 3-4 inches and the inclusion of a pen for taking notes, the Galaxy Note is more of a tablet than a smartphone.

With a 5.3 inch screen, the Galaxy Note is one big smartphone.

So what’s going on? Why are mobile phones getting bigger and bigger?

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  1. I’ve had a 5″ Dell Streak for 12 months now .. seems like the other phone manufacturers are just catching on that it’s the way to go. I don’t want to carry a phone as well as a tablet wherever I go, and I’ve been very happy with the phone’s size for web browsing, email, videos etc. It’s the perfect size for in-car navigation too.  I’d be very interested in getting a touch-screen ultrabook when they’re more readily available, so I think your theory is pretty sound in not needing a tablet.

  2. I still think a tablet screen is better for consuming media. Reading a eBook on a small screen really isn’t ideal, and I’d say the same for watching video. If I were to go on a holiday and had a choice between either my phone or tablet, I’d bring the tablet because it’s just nicer to view things on a bigger screen.

    If you’re a guy, then a phone has its size limits because it should fit in your trouser pocket without it looking, well, odd. If you’re a woman, then the size of your phone might not matter as much because, if you’re anything like my wife, it’ll likely vanish completely into the abyss that is your purse.

  3. Have to say that I have taken a long time to decide or justify why I need an iphone or alike, and one of the main negatives for me is the size of these phones… when compared to my OLD nokia 6120, they are gigantic and not easy to conceal in a pocket…but I think the technology will win me over in the end….

  4. Big phones are all very well but you’d look like nob with a gadget the size of a DVD case hanging off your ear. lets not forget they are primarily meant to be phones!

  5. Got a Galaxy Note this week from overseas -great phone – size makes it practical for ebooks, email,video and browsing – but still locatable. It is basically a galaxy S2 on steroids

    If all you want is a phone it may not be for you – but if you want a practical multifunction device the screen size makes a real difference – once you have had it for a while you will wonder how you coped with 3.5 or 4 inch screens

    1. Thanks RAP for your commets on the NOTE.I hav the SAMSUNG GALAXY 1,and i find this ph to be a fantastic ph. I dont know wether to get the 7″ tablet OR the NOTE.

  6. Had a play with a Galaxy Note today. Being a 16:10 display it’s quite wide but certainly pocketable and manageable unless you’re wearing tight jeans and have small hands. In fact to use it one handed is a little difficult but not impossible.

  7. I’m not the first to suggest it, but much of it could be the appeal to customers in the shop, as the bigger phone is going to look more impressive at first viewing. Unless the focus is primarily on improving the user experience though this could end up back-firing.

    I don’t personally think that ultrabooks will have as much impact as Intel hopes though, as nobody can match Apple’s quality for the same price. When they do, then I’m sure they will, if MS doesn’t screw up Windows again.

    I use an iPad for work, along with Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard only comes out at work, as outside, on the train and the like the iPad by itself is very handy. If MS or Apple could do a proper OS that can work both with just your fingers or with a keyboard and mouse, then I reckon things will start to get very interesting, as I’d love to have The One Machine to do almost everything.

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