Back in August, just before Apple announced its latest smartphones, I vowed that if the company came out with an “iPhablet,” I’d ditch my tablets and try to live and work exclusively with a giant smartphone and a laptop.
Well, as everyone knows, Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus—with its giant 5.5-inch screen—is pretty much the iPhablet we all expected, albeit with a slight less silly name. Now that I’ve been living with my iPhone 6 Plus for a while, I’m back to report on just how well the iPhone 6 Plus does at replacing a tablet.
Smaller tablets are dead, dead, dead
The answer, I’m afraid, is a bit more complicated than I hoped. On the simple side, it’s immediately clear that the phablet phorm phactor obviates any need—or even any real desire, apart from maybe saving a few bucks if you don’t need a phone—for smaller tablets like the iPad Mini or its Android-powered competitors. The size difference between the phablet and the small tablet just isn’t that big, and having the phone built in is a much better solution than carrying a separate, smaller device to make calls.
In the age of phablets, I simply don’t see a future for smaller tablets. But things get a little dicey when we start talking about full-size tablets. Despite my best intentions, I quickly discovered that while using a full-size tablet was never strictly necessary, it was significantly better at some of the things I wanted to do. And while most apps work great and I’ve been happy to read long articles and even books on the iPhone 6 Plus, watching video simply isn’t as satisfying.
The screen resolution is fine, but you have to hold the device up close to your face to get the same sense of immersion as watching a regular TV screen or holding a full-size tablet at a comfortable distance. Watching video on a 10-inch tablet feels natural and it’s easy to share what you’re looking at with others, even small groups. Doing the same on the smaller screen is often awkward.
See also: No, Apple's iPhone 6 Plus isn't too big
Obviously, the iPhone 6 Plus isn’t as comfortable for writing or creating other kinds of content as the full-size tablet is, but frankly that didn’t bother me much. The reason? Doing serious creative work on any tablet is pretty much a struggle anyway (even with an external keyboard), so making it a little harder didn’t fundamentally change the experience for me. Either way, I still want a full-fledged computer if I have real work to do, whether it’s writing a blog post, editing photos, or something else.
So forget all the hype about how the iPhone 6 Plus is too damn big. In the end that’s not the problem at all. The device seems easy enough to handle for me, and it fits fine just about anywhere I need to put it—including my front pants pocket, where I’ve been stashing my mobile phones since I first got one. No, my only real gripe about the device is that it’s not quite big enough.
That realization begs a couple of questions:
- How big would a phablet have to be to truly obviate the use case for a full-size tablet?
- Would a smartphone big enough to completely replace a tablet ultimately be too big to use comfortably as a phone?
I don’t have the answers to those questions, but as smartphone sizes inevitably continue to grow (you may have noticed that what once seemed monstrous is now commonplace, and that trend is far from played out), I think we’re on track to find out pretty quickly.
PS: Despite the trend toward comically large smartphones, I still know plenty of people who prefer smaller models. My wife, for instance, pines for an iPhone Mini… an iPhone 6 with an iPhone 5-sized screen. I think the market will prove big enough to support a wide range of form factors, even as bigger smartphones take center stage.