Smartphones, Tablets, and Tablet-Like Smartphones

Smartphones

Smartphones are evolving at an increasingly rapid rate these days, which makes smartphone comparison all the more fun and intriguing.

The term “smartphone” is now loosely defined to mean higher-end mobile phones that have many “smart” functions, such as cameras, internet access, music, apps, and full-featured operating systems that even rival that of some PCs. Smartphones practically merged the functions of personal digital assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones into one.

Having come a long way from the basic mobile phone that only had calls and text messaging functions, today we tend to expect our smartphones to literally do almost anything, since they make great all-around pocket-sized devices, packing impressive power in portable packages.

Earlier smartphone examples include the Nokia N95 of 2007. They have evolved to the slick touchscreens of the Apple iPhone 4S and its many competitors from Samsung and HTC today.

Tablets

Tablets are a relatively new hybrid or crossover device that emerged to fill the gap between smartphones and laptops.

While today’s smartphones typically have touchscreens of about 3 to 4 inches in size, they’re naturally too small for extended entertainment or business use. On the other hand, laptops and PCs cater to productivity needs or playing games and watching movies more comfortably, but at the expense of the smartphone’s portability.

So the tablet was born to merge the two together, slimming down the laptop’s screen to a portable slate. While there were several Windows Tablet PCs that had already emerged earlier, the tablet craze only started in 2010 when Apple took the world by storm with its amazing iPad. Since then, all major competitors have jumped onto the tablet bandwagon too, featuring Galaxy Tabs from Samsung, HTC Flyer, Motorola Xoom, Acer Iconia, and many more.

Today’s tablets typically range from 7 to 10 inches in size, and usually take the form of a touchscreen slate, appearing like somewhat enlarged smartphones. They typically have the same features as smartphones, though not all of them have phone functions, probably deemed redundant due to their size. The larger screen size affords some of the advantages of laptops, such as more enjoyable web browsing, ebooks, games, movies, apps, and many more. Thus, the power and productivity of tablets generally fall in between smartphones and laptops.

Tablet-Like Smartphones

On top of the emergence of tablets, we now see a new trend between smartphones and tablets as well. Smartphones are increasing in size from the iPhone’s 3.5-inch display, up to the 4.3 inches of Samsung’s Galaxy S2 and even 4.7 inches on the HTC Sensation XL. Tablets, on the other hand have been shrinking from the 9.7-inch iPad down to the 7-inch Galaxy Tab and HTC Flyer. In 2010, we saw the emergence of the 5-inch Dell Streak, followed by Samsung’s Galaxy Note sized at 5.3 inches more recently in October 2011.

These 5-inch devices are the most fascinating of the lot, since they pack in the features of both smartphones and tablets. It’s now hard to categorize them separately into either smartphones or tablets.

At 5 inches, they do seem a little too large to be used as portable smartphones, and perhaps a little too small to be used as tablets. The Dell Streak initially faced this criticism of having an identity crisis, but is still used by some people who like having a large smartphone or a small tablet.

The recent popularity of the Galaxy Note is also proof of this, and even Samsung’s advertising is designed to humorously confuse its users, asking them if it’s a phone or a tablet. The sight of some users holding large 5-inch slates to their ears as phones is a little comical, yet it seems to be a reality today.

Therefore, in making a smartphone comparison these days, we can no longer isolate smartphones completely from tablets. The recent trends of these devices really do show that manufacturers are experimenting with crossover devices, and the two are somewhat merging together at the size of 5 inches.

Who knows? We might also see 6-inch devices coming out soon, which makes us users spoilt for choice with the full range, from 4-inch smartphones all the way up to 10-inch tablets.

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