Smartphones, Phablets, And Tablets: Which Screen Wins And What's The Difference?

By James Geddes , Apr 20, 2013 11:45 AM EDT

Before Apple released the first iPad consumers had two connected screens to choose from, a traditional desktop or laptop and a smartphone. When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad he said that Apple was looking at a third category, somewhere in between a laptop and smartphone, and from that day on consumers were given a third choice of how they would view things online. The blurring of smartphones to phablets and small tablets to large tablets has only intensified the search to find the perfect size display.

We can really thank Samsung for all of this. The company responded to the original iPad a few months after its release by releasing a 7-inch Galaxy Tab. It wanted to offer consumers a smaller tablet than Apple's 9.7-inch iPad that would be easier to carry around.  Did Samsung have some vision of the 2013 tablet market back then? Samsung has gone on to cover every screen size imaginable on every smartphone, phablet, and tablet it has released. Samsung once gain decided to respond to Apple's iPhone by releasing its Galaxy S smartphones with 4+-inch screens, and later the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note 2 with 5.2-inch and 5.5-inch displays. Samsung was really blurring the lines between smartphone and tablet with phablets, and it's still not done. The company just released its Galaxy Mega line with its 5.8-inch and 6.3-inch displays. Samsung has been kind enough to create even more pressure to find that "perfect screen size." Thank you very much!

Now more smartphone makers are following Samsung's lead by offering smartphones with different display sizes in order to compete and offer its customers more choices. Apple, who entered the 4-inch smartphone market a few years after its biggest rival Samsung did, saw great success with the iPhone 5, a smartphone display size Steve Jobs swore nobody wanted. Apple is also rumored to be working on its own phablet for a possible 2014 release. BlackBerry, and Nokia are both rumored to be readying phablets of their own.

The tablet world is also going through this same identity crisis and consumers have to once again try and figure out the best-sized tablet that works for them. Companies like Apple, Samsung and Google are releasing tablets with all different display sizes. Again, they are doing this to help us, or so they want us to believe.

As usual Samsung has covered its bases in its tablets by releasing the Galaxy Tab, and Galaxy Note line with display sizes from 7-inches, 8-inches, 8.9-inches, and 10.1-inches.

Apple offered its 9.7-inch iPad for a few years until it finally decided to enter the small size tablet maket with the iPad mini in 2012. It entered the party late but the iPad mini is now believed to be Apple's most popular tablet. Consumers seem to like using a smaller iPad even though Steve Jobs told us Apple would never do it.

Amazon makes the most successful Android tablets currently and has also decided to grace us with more choices. Its Kindle Fire tablets are available in 7-inch and 8.9-inch models.

Google also offers its Nexus tablets in two different sizes, a 7-inch Nexus 7 and the 10.055-inch Nexus 10.

Microsoft does not like to see its competitors achieve success that it thinks it can, so it built its own Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets. Microsoft decided to offer consumers an even larger display than its competitors by make the Surface Pro and Surface RT have 10.6-inch displays. Microsoft hasn't seen the success that the above companies have, so it is naturally going to take another stab and is rumored to be working on a smaller 7-inch Surface that's reportedly being referred to as the "Surface Mini."

If Samsung can really see the future like it did in 2010, be prepared to see tablets and smartphones blur the lines even more. The push is on to ultimately converge the smartphone and tablet into one device, are phablets the future? Who knows? One thing is certain, you can bet all of these companies will be more than happy to help you find and buy what they deem is the best size display for you in their offerings.

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