Worldwide sales figures suggest that traditional tablet PCs are fast losing ground to the new-age phablets. The latter, in fact, can be used as a regular smartphone as well. We here highlight the main points of differences between phablets and tablets.
The total volume of tablet shipments worldwide rose by less than 5% last year, according to a Digitimes Report. While the sales of iPad has flattened out, Apple is not the only company to be facing the problem of dwindling popularity of tablets. It would be too early to project the demise of tablets altogether, but we can definitely state that phablets have emerged as more than worthy substitutes. While the war between the iPhone 6 Plus and the Google Nexus 6 is hotly debated by techies, let us do a roundup of the key differences between a tablet and a phablet:
- Screen size – The primary criteria on the basis of which a device is classified as a ‘tablet’ or a ‘phablet’. Gadgets in the former category are typically larger, with the screen size being 7.5” to 10”. The screens of phablets are, on average, between 5” to 7” in size. It is worth a mention in this regard that ‘smartphones’ traditionally have a screen size of 4” to 5”.
- Usability features – Contrary to general belief, phablets have not been introduced in the market to compete with tablets only. They combine the functionalities of both smartphones and tablets, so that users of either can switch over to a phablet – and enjoy the same communication features. Since phablets are smaller in size, holding them next to the ear is not much of a problem. Trying to do the same with a tablet is awkward – unless, of course, you are using a hands-free bluetooth headset.
- Battery consumption and performance – Let’s put it this way – tablets and smartphones have roughly the same battery backup period (around 10-12 hours on 2G), while phablets typically offer more than 15 hours of usage without having to be recharged. According to researchers on mobile devices and app development, the better battery performance of phablets is a direct result of the more powerful processors (in comparison with tablets) that they have. The higher RAM space is also a factor. What’s more – since tablets have larger screen spaces, they tend to consume more battery.
- Camera features – Ho-hum on most tablets, and usually excellent on tablets. When the latter hit the markets – taking photos was not considered to be one of its ‘core’ functions, so much so that the first-generation iPad did not have any camera app at all. Although things have changed, you will be hard-pressed to find a tablet that has a rear camera of more than 5MP. Now, compare that with the 8-13 MP cameras embedded in phablets. Yet another indication that phablets can serve as decent alternatives to smartphones.
- Thickness – Tablets are significantly thicker than phablets. As far as device weights are concerned, a tablet is heavier than a phablet too (consider devices from the same manufacturer, for an objective comparison). The thinner bezel of a phablet is the most noteworthy point of difference regarding the physical attributes of the two categories of gadgets. Phablets generally weigh around 200 grams, while the best-selling tablets are mostly over 300 grams in weight.
- Market entry – If tablets and phablets were humans, the former would have been around 8 years older than the latter. Microsoft officially announced the first range of tablet PCs in 2001 – and the gadgets were launched in 2002. The first-generation iPad arrived as late as in April 2010. That, incidentally, was also the year when Dell Streak – the world’s first phablet – was unveiled. Although not a huge success, it showed the way for more powerful phablet versions, which were launched over the next couple of years.
- Utility as an education technology tool – Nearly 40% of preschoolers across the world use tablets on a regular basis. There are several educational apps for kids that are optimized for contemporary tablets. Teachers recommend the usage of tablets too, for i) making children tech-savvy from an early age, and b) taking advantage of all digital learning resources. Phablets, however, are still considered as ‘big brothers’ of smartphones – and are rarely used by children below a certain age.
- Display quality – In addition to the screen size, phablets also ace it in terms of display quality. Among the models currently available, many offer full-HD 1080p display. Even mid-range phablets boast of 720p visual properties – higher than what most tablets offer. In terms of pixel density (ppi) as well, phablets are well ahead (240 ppi vs 210 ppi (average figures)). Once again, the lower pixel density of tablets can be attributed to their larger screen space.
- Way of use – Steve Jobs once compared large-sized mobile devices as ‘Hummers’, clearly indicating that they would find very few takers. With all due respect to the legendary entrepreneur, we can say that this was one of the poorest tech predictions of all time. The popularity of tablets proved that there were plenty of people interested in using both their hands to operate mobile gadgets. Phablets are, conversely, ‘one-hand devices’. Users can talk, text, browse, and perform other functions using a single hand with ease.
- Target audience – Not vastly different for the two. However, surveys conducted by leading tech gadget and mobile app development companies have revealed that tablets are mostly owned by people who need to perform work-related tasks and use multimedia resources on the go. On the other hand, phablets find more acceptance among the relatively younger generation – who use entertainment-based apps and use wi-fi services on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, phablets are now considered the ‘in’-thing.
- Average selling prices – From 2010, the prices of both tablets and phablets have been on a gradual downward trend. By the end of 2015, the average price tag on tablets is expected to drop below the $415 mark. The fall in the average price of phablets have been even more striking – from close to $570 in 2013, to less than $400 at present. With a surge in sales volumes, it can be expected that phablet prices might fall further.
- The biggest players – Apple recently announced the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3, indicating that the tablet market is far from being dead. Samsung, Amazon and LG also have their range of tablets – which are high on popularity. Ironically, Microsoft’s Surface tab did not do well at all. On the phablet front, all eyes are on the iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4 tussle. Sony Xperia and Nokia Lumia phablets have their own set of fans too.
It has been projected by market analysts and app development experts that shipment volumes of phablets would become nearly double of that of tablets, by 2018. It would be a folly to completely rule out the chances of a turnaround in the fortunes of tablets though. User-preferences keep changing, phablets have more fans at present – but there can always be a swing in customer demands, right?
One thing’s for sure though, tablets are not going to disappear from the market anytime soon!