The future of smartphone/tablet hybrids is in 1080p

This month has seen the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the latest and greatest big-screen device to grace UK stores. A few days ago, the same handset went up for pre-order with EE, where it will connect to its forthcoming 4G LTE network too. Its release proves that the success of the first Galaxy Note wasn’t a fluke, and that Samsung has captured a slice of the market that few others thought even existed.

The Note and the Note 2 are tablet/smartphone hybrids — often referred to as phablets or the even more cringe-worthy tabphones — as they occupy the space in-between what most consider to be too big to call a smartphone, and too small to call a tablet.

So what makes a device qualify as a tablet/smartphone hybrid? Well, a smartphone needs to be pocketable (by everyone, not just those wearing clown trousers), so a 4.3-inch to 4.8-inch screen is about the maximum. Tablets don’t need to slip into a pocket, but require a screen large enough to make their existence worthwhile. Seven inches seems to be the base. Therefore, hybrid territory is from 5-inches to 6.9-inches.

Samsung succeeded where others had failed

Samsung’s two hybrids weren’t the first on the scene though, as several other manufacturers thought they saw a gap in the market too. Dell is a good example, as it launched the Dell Streak in 2010, before sending it to the graveyard in August 2011 due to poor sales. The world obviously wasn’t quite ready, but it didn’t take long, as Samsung announced the Galaxy Note in January 2012. It has since gone on to sell more than 10 million units around the world.

It has spawned a variety of imitators too, primarily from LG with its Optimus Vu, but also from manufacturers such as Lenovo with its K860 and Panasonic with the Eluga Power. Both are exciting phones, but aren’t available in the UK through networks, although they can be purchased SIM-free.

What makes smartphone/tablet hybrids so attractive? It’s difficult to say, but they certainly provide a neat compromise for people who don’t want to purchase both a smartphone and a tablet. There’s no denying that video looks fantastic, and browsing the web on the Note 2 is a completely different experience to doing so on a smaller-screened device.

The Future is in 1080p

However, technology moves on, so where will manufacturers take hybrids next? By design they’re limited on the size of their screen, and the Note 2 already has a quad-core processor inside, so what’s going to be used to persuade you to go with a hybrid next time you’re heading out to buy a new device?

It appears that while the screen won’t get much bigger, the resolution will be increasing, as 1080p phones are just around the corner. To make the most out of a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, the screen needs to be fairly large, making the tablet/smartphone hybrid the perfect recipient.

HTC has already announced the J Butterfly for the Japanese market, a device that boasts a 5-inch, 1080p display and a quad-core Snapdragon chip, while little known brand Oppo is close behind with the Find 5. LG, Sharp and Sony are also all working on 5-inch screens with 1080p resolutions.

When will we see one of these phones on UK shores? No official announcements have been made, but the HTC J Butterfly sounds suspiciously close to the specification of the rumoured HTC One X5, which could come as the Nexus 5 at the end of October.

About Andrew Boxall

Andy's fascination with mobile tech began in the 90s, at a time when SMS messages were considered cutting edge, but it would be at least a decade before he would put finger-to-keyboard as a freelance tech writer. In the interim he wrote about travel, formulated strong opinions about films and drove a series of audacious cars