Date: May 06 2012
FIRST came the smartphone. Then the tablet. Now, the ''phablet''.
Phablets, either oversized smartphones or small tablets depending on how you view them, could be the surprise tech hit of 2012.
While the Samsung Galaxy Note has been on sale in Australia for only a month, more than five million have been sold worldwide. Other phablets are expected to follow the Galaxy Note, which has a 13.5 centimetre screen.
Last week, the web went into overdrive with talk Apple would launch a miniature version of the iPad, although it is unclear whether it would include a phone feature.
Samsung Australia vice-president Tyler McGee said the Galaxy Note's Australian uptake had been ''fantastic'' although he would not reveal sales figures.
''It's created a new category [of handheld device],'' he said.
Ben McIntosh, manager of computers at Harvey Norman, said Galaxy Note sales were, ''OK, certainly not setting the world on fire'' but he predicted sales would pick up as word spread.
''It's a great tool and it's really going to do well in Australia … I think phablets will find their niche in Australia very, very quickly.''
The Galaxy Note sells for $899 outright but is available free on a $79 or $99 plan with Optus and Telstra respectively.
Mr McIntosh said he owned a Galaxy Note and although it was too big for one-handed typing or texting, it was not awkward to use.
''It's so light,'' he said, which made it ideal for people who often travelled for work.
While the term phablet is new, the style of device first came to Australia in 2010 with the launch of the Dell Streak, which was discontinued last year because of poor sales.
It could be argued that 17.8-centimetre tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Acer Iconia are also phablets, as they can be used to make mobile calls.
IT consultant Steve Voegt said he attracted ridicule from friends and colleagues when he used his Samsung Galaxy Tab as a phone.
''I got laughed at quite heavily,'' he said. ''They said it looked ridiculous because there were times when I was holding it up to my ear.''
Melbourne app developer and commentator Danny Gorog said the strangest feature of the Note was its stylus, for drawing and handwriting.
''A stylus was something I hoped was going to die,'' he said. ''It's impractical, they get lost, it's just not as convenient as using a finger.''
Mr Gorog said phablets were too big to be phones and too small to be tablets. Their advantage was long battery life.
''The bigger the phone the bigger the battery they can put in the phone. The large screen is just a cover,'' he said.
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