According to Google’s Vice President of Engineering David Burke, you might like a phablet if you tried it. That’s what CNET, one of the handful of publications invited to Google’s campus last week for the purpose of demoing Lollipop and the new Nexus devices, gleaned from an interview of Google execs, excerpts of which were published yesterday.
Responding to a question about the Nexus 6’s larger-than-average size, Burke estimated that somewhere around half of people would prefer a larger phone if they used it for an extended period of time. “If you gave them a phablet for a week, 50 percent of [consumers] would say they like it and not go back,” he told CNET.
That’s not to suggest bigger smartphones are for everyone – Google is keeping the Nexus 5 around for just that reason, said Burke, but the comment raises an interesting point – have many of the people opposed to larger devices had a chance to test one for themselves?
I think the answer depends largely on the framing of the question. In developing countries, phablets derive popularity from the perception that they are, as the portmanteau suggests, all-in-one devices; buying a big phone negates the need for a tablet, which saves money.
In the United States, though, where disposable incomes are higher and devices like the iPad and iPhone have managed to healthily coexist for years (excepting recent trends), ideas about larger handsets are different. I think people appreciate bigger displays, but only to a point; when the line between handset and tablet begins to blur, many folks would rather use a dedicated device that does not concede size and functionality for portability.
That is not to say phablets do not have their use cases. But I doubt many would agree that 6-inch screens offer a better movie-viewing experience than 10-inch screens, or that word processing is easier on a Windows Phone than a Surface. By definition, phablets can never be more than compromises – fantastic compromises in some cases, but compromises all the same.
Is there truth to Burke’s statement? In some Asian and European nations, probably. In the United States, though, where premium tablets like the Microsoft Surface continue to enjoy measurable success, consumer preferences are clear: phones of a reasonable size, and tablets separately.