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Phone tablet hybrids heading for enterprise dominance

Although phone tablet hybrids, also known as 'phablets,' aren't perfect, it's becoming clear they're the enterprise technology of the future.

Phone tablet hybrids, or phablets, have real value in the workplace because of their size and unique features, but there are some downsides.

Phablets are large smartphones that approach the size of traditional tablets; their screen sizes range from 5.7 inches to 6.4 inches and are lighter than tablets. By 2019, there will be 1.5 billion phablets shipped around the world, according to research firm BI Intelligence. And enterprise mobility experts I talked to said as much as 40% of their companies' supported devices will be phone tablet hybrids by the end of next year. It is obvious that phablets are the next big thing.

The size of phablets' screens allows for easier reading of email, messages, websites and most enterprise documents. The larger devices also can hold a larger battery, so people on the go all the time do not have to charge it as frequently. And some phablets, such as those in the Samsung Galaxy Note line, have a stylus. A stylus helps you jot a quick note, do some basic drawing, and edit some graphs and charts. You can even pinpoint an exact location within a document.

I do not see many significant downsides to phone tablet hybrids, but there are some ways in which they are less than optimal.

We will see a day when phablets will overtake the PC.

For starters, phablets are hard to carry. They do not easily fit into most pockets, but they do fit well in most small bags and purses, or just in your hand. It's tough to use them with one hand, as well. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but there are many times where you are multi-tasking and need to touch other areas of the screen, and you just cannot reach them.

The user experience with most apps is not significantly better on phablets either. Users of iOS devices have likely seen updates to apps, designed to accommodate the larger screens of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Most of the apps are updated, but not optimized; the images, buttons and fonts look better on the larger screen, but the app is not configured to take better advantage of the additional real estate.

We will see a day when phablets will overtake the PC. Think about the portability for the employee and cost savings for the company. Workers would still have a desk with a large monitor and keyboard, but these accessories would connect to the phablet. Motorola tried this approach with the Atria, but unlike that device, modern phablets have the power and flexibility to run powerful business apps and still be a user-friendly mobile tool.

This was last published in December 2014

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Have you noticed more employees using phablets at your company?
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Does the iPhone 6 Plus count? Otherwise, I haven't seen much yet, but I'm sure they're coming. Personally, I like smaller phones, but I can tell that I'm increasingly in the minority.  
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Thanks Ben for responding. The iPhone 6 Plus does count in that total. I think ultimately we are waiting for the next great innovation, which doesn't include a larger screen, that will catapult more enterprise work.
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The points you've made in the article are all true at face value (hard to hold in one hand vs. phone, they don't fit in a pocket, etc.), however when you consider the popularity and wide spread use of hands free devices (wire or Bluetooth), as well as the larger screen size and stylus/pen being more suitable for collaboration tools such as video conferencing etc., the Phablet becomes an even stronger form factor for the future.  As more enterprises integrate mobility and Unified Communications solutions, it is more feasible to eliminate the smartphone, tablet, and laptop for a larger community of users.
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