Saturday, March 12, 2016

Chai Time: Does Size Matter?

Today we aim to answer the age long question: is (screen) size relevant when it comes to phones?

In less than twelve months I have experienced two abismally different screen sizes. Firstly, with the Moto X: a 4.7 inch phone. After growing tired of the limited storage, I jumped onto the Sony Xperia Z ultra, a 6.4 inch phone. Once again, I decided to break things up with this phone and ditched it for a smaller, more comfortable phone: The Sony M5, a five incher.

At first my sole reason for changing devices was the storage. The 16 gigabytes on the Moto X (first generation) are non expandable. The storage shrank daily, I needed a device with expandable storage. That's when I picked up what was formerly my father's phablet, the Z Ultra.

At first it was a breath of fresh air. The bigger screen displayed my media in all of its 1080p glory. I was extremely happy with my new phone. It was extremely comfortable for enjoying Netflix on an uneventful afternoon, for browsing Reddit at night and obviously for gaming. This bigger screen was superior for consuming media, and the controls on my games were displayed on a bigger area, making them more comfortable.

There was one thing that was not comfortable though: my jeans. My phone either fit in too tight and hurt my hips when I sat on the bus, or it would fall out when wearing looser pants. The solution was to carry my phone in my backpack, which was no issue since I always wear my Moto 360 so I wouldn't miss any notifications. Yet, if I needed to get my phone out quickly it was too much of a hassle.

A phablet is a great device for media consumption. However, it is not the best option for most users, especially those with a more active lifestyle. It is impossible to carry one around in the gym, or when jogging. It is too uncomfortable and a larger (device) surface area means there are more chances to scratch its sufrace with something. On the other hand, if you are most of the day in a classroom/office and can carry a phablet on your briefcase (with a smartwatch paired to it) or your jacket pocket, it may be worth the investment.
One-handed usage is near impossible on a phablet
(Image courtesy of

In my case, a smaller device was the solution. I picked up the Sony M5, a phone which is smaller altogether than the Ultra's screen. I now can carry it comfortably in my pockets, plus one handed usage is once again possible. This is a huge plus, I had forgotten how important one handed usage is for me, especially when walking around campus. Phablets are slowly losing traction, with very few real contenders left on the market, probably with a good reason. The usability and comfort may be prioritized over media consumption. A phablet could be appealing for someone who is looking to merge their phone and tablet experience, but it is not the same to either one of them.  Of course I do miss the big screen sometimes, but I will not be returning to a size so big.

Do phablets have a future? Let us know in the comments below!

By: Phil Monnier