With tablet computer boom, the customer got exposed to the convenience of big screens and to the possibilities of work-on-the-go devices that could handle presentations, spreadsheets, documents et al, without the need to boot up the laptop. Luxury became necessity.
However, they were stuck to the needs of a cellphone as well. A 7” device is simply too unwieldy for making phone calls, though a few brave souls did try to stick a tablet to their ear and make calls. Bluetooth headsets were one solution, but that was just a workaround.
With the 5” Galaxy Note, Samsung set a template, and the word phablet --- phones that could be used as tablets --- was born. The device has found great market acceptance, and has spawned several imitations. We look at four options this week --- two in the premium range and two in the budget category.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2
The 5.3”-screen Galaxy Note 1 was the first off the block. Early adapters welcomed it with open arms, and encouraged Samsung to upgrade the device last year with Jelly Bean, the latest version of the Android OS. The Note 2 has a slightly more curvaceous design, and features a quad-core processor that speeds up things. Camera specs (8 megapixel rear, 2 megapixel front) were unchanged, but the screen became an even bigger 5.5” high-definition. At the time of writing, it is the prettiest phablet screen available.
One leading feature of the Note siblings is the stylus, which Samsung calls the S-Pen. It extends the versatility of the phone, and can be used to take notes, make drawings and edit pictures, adding to your multimedia experience.
LG Optimus Vu
This is the other big banner phone in the segment. It also runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.4), but its screen is 5” — but then, it does cost less too. It too has a quad-core processor and a rear 8MP camera, though the front one is only 1.3 MP, and the screen is only a WXGA with a 4:3 resolution — neither as sharp nor as vivid as Galaxy Note. So the question is, what is your primary purpose. For everyday tasks such as email, phone calls and a bit of browsing, the LG is value for money, but if you watch movies or hi definition videos, or play high-end games, you will feel the difference.
The Vu too has a stylus, but sadly, LG forgot to create a slot for it in the device, and you have to carry it separately. On the flip side, the device comes with a free flip cover in the box.
Lava Iris 501
This is the latest entry in the phablet market. Lava is not really a big player but seems to have big plans for the price-sensitive market. The screen is 5” with WVGA resolution (notice that the resolution comes down with the price), i.e 800 x 480 pixels, which is good for web browsing, emails and basic YouTube videos, but like in the LG Vu, you will not be able to see high-definition content.
The camera is 5 MP at the rear and 0.3 MP in the front — good enough to shoot and share social pictures, but video calling requires a brightly-lit room. The processor is dual-core, but it is fast enough since the screen has a lower resolution.
The A110 is commonly called the Canvas 2, and has been available for some time now. It is the cheapest phablet we reviewed. Specs are similar to the Lava phone: dual-core processor, a 5” FWVGA screen (with a slightly higher resolution at 480x854) and a 0.3 MP VGA front camera. The rear camera is better at 8MP, though, which is the only scoring point over the Lava — apart from the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS (4.0.3).
Overall, the economy phablets give their costlier siblings a run for their money. If you don’t care for the name tag, and are only looking for a phone that can work as a tablet too, and don’t really need HD video playback, the economy tablets feature better. They even have dual SIM capability which the larger brands do not have.
On Monday, Micromax announced an HD-enabled version of its Canvas, though the launch date or price-range were not revealed. But really, dear reader, the choice is yours.