Lumia 1520 is a Phablet, not a Phone

Repeat after me, “the Lumia 1520 is a Phablet not a Phone”.  Now repeat it again.  I’m amazed when I read reviews of this device and the author doesn’t get it.  I’ve always questioned if phones with screens greater than 5″ make any sense, but at least I describe the design scenario they are targeting.

Phablets are a horrible idea for men, at least as a primary mobile phone, because they don’t fit in our pockets.  They might make sense as a secondary device we carry in a briefcase and rarely use as phones.  But then why not go with an 8″ tablet and use Skype when your primary mobile phone won’t suffice?

Women may find Phablet  more acceptable since they usually have a handbag with them, but then they also have smaller hands.  And where does the Phablet go when the situation calls for a small, or no, bag?

See I just don’t get Phablets.

But I’m an American taking an American, or at best “western”, view.  A friend recently returned from Asia where he found Phablets were very popular.  Particularly amongst women, who generally carried them in attractive cases that turned them into fashion accessories.

I’m sure a Phablet also could make sense in countries where Man Bags are more common.  Particularly if the alternative is to carry around both a phone and a tablet.  And that is what this Phablet category is all about for me.

The Lumia 1520 and similar products from Samsung and HTC make sense if you REALLY need two devices but insist on only carrying one.  Every device is a tradeoff and these are no different.  You want a screen big enough so you don’t need to carry around a separate tablet?  Then you have to carry something that is outside the acceptable range of dimensions for a phone.  It’s that simple.

Will Americans bite?  Probably not in huge numbers.  Here it is a niche market.  Could OEMs and carriers expand the market?  Sure, if they sold non-voice variants of these devices.  That would make them tablets.

Would I consider buying a data-only Lumia 1520 if it were $299 (no contract) and I could add it to my AT&T family-share plan for $10/month? You bet.  It would become the tablet I carried when I didn’t really want to carry a tablet.  But I’m sure not going to pay mobile phone prices, and accept mobile phone contract terms,  for the way I want to use this device class.

So why haven’t we seen data-only versions of these devices?  I can only speculate, but I think it is because they are too close to being phone substitutes for the carriers’ comfort.  They don’t want to lose the voice and SMS revenue for the niche population that would find a data-only Lumia 1520 with Skype etc. an acceptable phone alternative.  And they must worry that based on what they see in Asia that niche could grow into a significant portion of their customer base.  Or that customers would then start demanding 4.5″ data-only devices that would truly eat into mobile phone revenues.

If you are going to write a review of the Lumia 1520 or similar devices you need to acknowledge that:

  • This is a unique market segment, not just a large phone
  • That cultural and gender differences play a far greater role in the acceptability of these devices than they do in the broader mobile phone market

The problem with the review I linked to at the beginning is that the reviewer evaluated the device as a phone.  It’s not, it’s a Phablet.

(To be fair, the reviewer does discuss tablet-like scenarios.  But that’s more to criticize the current WP8 Xbox Video state of affairs than to focus on the device as more than a big phone.)

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8 Responses to Lumia 1520 is a Phablet, not a Phone

  1. B Glosser says:

    Well the 1520 is also a 20 megapixel camera with a Zeiss lens if I am not mistaken. It does fit into a jacket pocket. I loaded my phone app, AeroTunes, on it and it ran no problem.
    BTW have you checked out the Nokia tablet? Super, thin, solid, multiple colors, should give iPod air a run for its money, and it arrived in the Microsoft Store near here with little fanfare.

    • halberenson says:

      Not yet. Nokia is offering a free power cover if you buy one before December 2nd, so I’m tempted to look in the next few days to decide if I want one.

    • halberenson says:

      Also on the jacket pocket point, yup. But that also puts it more in the category of a secondary device. You aren’t taking it with you on a hot summer day when you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt. But it could be a Wall Street alternative to the Blackberry, where it is either in a suit pocket, briefcase, or somewhere else other than the pocket of your pants. And where its messaging abilities are critical but phone calls usually involve a Bluetooth accessory. Or your personal iPhone.

  2. dave says:

    There’s a market for big and tall clothing retailers tending to the beds of larger people. I suspect many of these customers would really appreciate something more scaled to their fingers.

    And, people with smaller hands and proportions see the phablet at a tablet for their scale. Which may explain the popularity in Asia.

    So, two ends or the spectrum that can to a large niche.

  3. Bob - Former DECie says:

    Under Featured Products, the Microsoft Store says, “The Lumia 1520 is the phone with an extra-large, six-inch, 1080p full HD display with excellent outdoor readability. Its redesigned start screen lets you make the most of the extra space.” Sigh, I guess they don’t understand phablet either,

    • halberenson says:

      I don’t think Phablet is an official term, so they are indeed referred to as phones. For example, Verizon calls the Galaxy Note 3 a smartphone. But just because marketing people want to call a cow a pig doesn’t mean the rest of us have to start believing that beef is really pork.

  4. I can confirm that phablets are indeed very popular here in Asia. The Samsungs seem to be most prevalent. I don’t know if I’d say it’s larger number of women than men that carry them, but most people that I see with them have flip covers on them so they carry them more like a book if they don’t have a handbag/manbag. And also in Asia, I think it’s much more common for men to have manbags or backpacks. They do look silly, though, when they use them as a phone…

  5. rohitharsh says:

    For the first time these phanlets have made me think of owning two devices.Depending upon where I am going and what i am wearing one or other works. There are time I go to my regular pub where I want a phablet.Its time where I can have food and a beer and use the phablet. Other times walking by the lake or in summer when jeans pocket is too small for phablet I want smaller device.

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