Release of the Next Generation Larger Format Mobile Phone (Phablet) – is Imminent – This time it might change the whole marketplace.
8 April 2014
by Loren W
Even the name Phablet is part of technological ambiguity. PC Magazine used the word in 1993 to describe the AT&T EO 440 a personal computer, perhaps even a mistake in the current context of the word, but it was tablet of sorts with a modem in it and could be used as a phone. It was 5.9″ x 4.3″ and quit being made in 1994.
However, the Samsung Galaxy Note I circa 2011 (my 1st phablet) is normally referred to as the first phablet. By early 2013 it was estimated that 25.6m phablets had been sold worldwide and numbers were expected to grow to 60m in 2013 and 146m by 2016 depending on what your definition is of a phablet is of course. For the sake of this article we will assume a phablet is primarily a mobile phone larger than 5.89 in and less than 7in.
Phablets Lagging Behind and One Step Ahead
Most phone manufacturers have launched Phablets months after they announce the more popular smaller form factors, and thus often before the next generation mobile depending on your perspective. This has been true of Samsung, HTC, and Sony. This often means features of Phablets (other than the size) usually offer less features than the next mobile phone based on this evolutionary conundrum. For instance the Sony Z Ultra was announced soon after the Sony Z1 and way before the Z2. Unfortunately it was made to compete with the Samsung Galaxy Note, so offered less features than the Z1 or naturally the Z2.
All the phablets on the market offer similar features in some respects very different ones in others usually depending again on the release date vs its competitors.
For example the Sony Z Ultra is the largest of the main group coming in at 7×3.6×0.26 inches, but is waterproof to 30m, almost identical screen quality, but with a much lower quality camera than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, has less memory than the Samsung but was announced 3 months before the Samsung. It has the same CPU as the Samsung so is almost identical in benchmark tests. The HTC Max is a lower spec phone but less expensive.
The Apple & Marketplace Phablet 3 Bears Conundrum
The late great Steve Jobs said tablets should stay big, phones should stay small period. Later Apple released the now very popular iPad mini. It is no secret Apple is testing a larger iPhone the iPhone 6, Google is sponsoring the Nexus 6, Nokia has the 1520. A recently leaked internal document by Apple shows concerns over losing sales to Phablets.
The next round of Phablet Wars included HTC, Google, Samsung, Apple, and Even Microsoft / Nokia.
Phablet Winners / Losers Summary – Android – Samsung wins the high end spec race (matched by a earlier released less market savvy known, Sony Z Ultra 2). Nexus 6 wins on the best value front, HTC will draw interest from the 1 Max but with a low spec camera perhaps in line with the Nexus 6 , Motorola will draw a lot of interest with its 1st Phablet the X +1 and Microsoft will draw increasingly more interest with the Lumina 1520 and its replacement perhaps the Lumina 1820 due to windows 8.1 and Cortana voice assistant. . Apple might slip in under the minimum Phablet size but call it a Phablet anyhow, but might remain the one to watch. If they launch a phablet, (6inch or larger) it would change the phone demographic forever.
My Tablet is a Phablet – On the WTF side of things many new tablets continue to come out with phone features, as this happens folks will move to headsets vs talking into tablets as these less portable devices continue to trickle out.
Lack up updates and information from Microsoft, for a phone that is buggy starting to concern many.
At the same time Microsoft Windows Phone 7 (WP7) launched. Another mobile phone division of Microsoft (conflicting per those in Microsoft) was having a drama as they introduced a new phone (the KIN), the mobile team then had it killed, then introduced again then killed it again, confusing I know.
This has been referred to some since as the Microsoft Kin Effect. The KIN took years of development and acquisitions of Danger Incorporated that also had the T-Mobile sidekick (a popular handset with its own problems where the KIN was derived). The R&D around all of this has been estimated in the <gulp> $USD Billions of Dollars.
Due to poor US Sales, (not a surprise due too little advertising and poor pricing), a planned launch in Europe was scrapped and the KIN team (now Microsoft mobile refugees) were was rolled into the about the launched Windows Phone 7 Mobile Division and severely de-prioritised, e.g. all but scrapped again, others in the group were sent off to Microsoft Siberia.
Those aware of this in the media (businesses, and consumers) a bit nervous about buying a new WP7 phone, especially business sector that in some cases had to update dozens of handsets though they may still be running IE6 browsers and Windows XP both way out of date. A still larger number never heard or cared about the KIN so Microsoft escaped a bullet there.
The market was taking shape; Apple had few models to choose from all the same but for storage size but all apple. Google had their own problems as handsets were many but varied in size and specification. A mixed blessing for Google but a successful one in that by having many models to choose from, market share has skyrocketed.
The Microsoft Model would be a hybrid of Apple and Google Strategies, with multiple models but all with a specific specification that would give a uniform experience to customers.
But this also meant Microsoft had to do a good job to compete with the iPhone or one of dozens of android phones. Many felt Microsoft had to introduce a phone better than the Apple iPhone, a tall order indeed.
Are You Serious?
So was Microsoft serious about WP7 and would the benchmarks be for Microsoft to pull the plug on WP7 as they had done on the KIN such as poor sales figures.
Remember in the case of the KIN it was simple billions of dollars in Microsoft R&D were sacrificed would the same be done for the WP7?
The good news was Microsoft was introducing the phone globally (all but at a low budget global event) far from the glamour of an Apple launch. Different handsets were being introduced across different global markets with a similar technical minimum being maintained to offer consistent experiences for users.
Frequent Updates (Where?)
Like Apple and Google had already done, Microsoft promised publically relatively frequent updates to the handsets, something that was for this slow moving giant well received and anticipated, especially for consumers and businesses that jumped on the bandwagon early to buy a single or multiple handsets. Here in Australia marketing for the Microsoft Windows Mobile 7 was a non-event, so much so that many larger shops from Optus and Telstra that had WP7 phones did little to support or even offer them for sale even weeks after launch.
Updates offered a real comfort to Android and Apple iPhone users as though the handsets are not perfect a fix was only an update away. To date Microsoft has forgotten about updating handsets or telling customers & enthusiasts what the heck is going on.
Is There an App for That?
Will all the amazing number of poor quality apps for the iPhone and Android Phones, fart noises etc. There are a larger number of good quality apps. Unfortunately, to date many feel that some needed apps for the WP7 have yet to materialise. Many developers say making apps for WP7 is a good experience, but prefer to focus on where volumes will be sold and that means anywhere but WP7.
Others have said when the demand is there they will produce apps.
Shooting Your Own
Even those in the media shouting from the roof tops on the wonders of WP7, are starting to wonder if they backed a loser, and Microsoft has done little to change anyone’s minds on this even attacking those that have grown frustrated at the lies (promises not kept).
The Nokia Salvation – Too little too late?
When it was announced of the JV between Microsoft and Nokia, after Google had failed to seal the deal with Nokia themselves, many thought this would be good news. Unfortunately in press interviews the words ‘Window Mobile’ were used but never the word ‘seven’. It then follows that the Nokia alliance will take 2 years to bear fruit way past the life span of windows phone 7.
So can Windows Mobile live long enough to be saved by Nokia that has the distribution power and market share to save Microsoft Mobile? It is also believed Microsoft might launch a Nokia only Version of Windows Phone, so not helping those with non-Nokia handsets.
Other Problems (is the WP7 team going on Hiatus)
Recent software update attempts (even an update that allows other updates) has not gone well for Microsoft and mainly for scores of customers.
Many users globally are reporting issues with these small recent updates that caused the phones of many to be made inoperable. Further software updates has offered conflicts between old apps and new software updates, requiring complete handset resets for users
I walked into one Optus shop in Melbourne 2 weeks after they had launched the WP7 handsets, and they had to open the box for me to see the unit as they had no fake demo models or real ones, and I was the first one to ask. Two weeks after launch. This was similar to a larger Telstra shop where staff said they knew nothing about them (thought they were fake demos on display)
Additionally, for one Samsung WP7 case I had to order a case for it from China as none are available months after launch in Australia (per Optus and Samsung).
In a time when a new Apple iPhone or iPad is discussed as soon as the last one is released, Microsoft can only hope that when someone discusses a Window Phone that the
It has been hinted that there will be a minor Windows Mobile Update still in 2011, but nothing more major until 2012. But it has been up to forensic media folk to even find that out.
As someone that regularly suggests hardware, including phone handsets, I am looking forward to the next 4G handsets, iPhone 5, other new Android Handset, The Nokia WP7 phones, and other Windows Phones (version 8) in that order after that and will likely be selling my Window Phone 7 as soon as a better handset one comes along, which may not be so far away.
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