back to article Ten smartphones with tablet ambitions...

How we all laughed when Samsung launched the Galaxy Note toward the end of 2011. Who could possibly want a phone with a 5.3-inch screen? It turned out rather a lot of people did, and the unqualified success of the 4.8-inch Galaxy S III and 5.6-inch Galaxy Note 2 proved that what many punters want is a phone with a really, really …


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  1. Ru

    Funny thing, fashion

    I picked up my Dell Streak 5 dead cheap cos the idea of a phone that big or a tablet that small was frankly laughable at the time. Shame it was so difficult to upgrade the OS, mind you...

    1. xperroni
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Funny thing, fashion

      On a related note, I read the name of Asus' handset three times before figuring it's called the 'P'adFone, and not 'F'adFone as I first thought.

      The mind, it plays tricks.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People used to laugh at the size of my smart phone.

    Phones were getting smaller, but the Nokia smartphones were getting bigger.

    People waving their tiny phones about like a little thong compared to my granny-pants of a device, laughing at the space taken up by mine.

    Now everyone wants a massive phone and think they are cool.

    I'm a trend setter, but just too ahead of my time.

    1. Piro

      Re: People used to laugh at the size of my smart phone.

      Exactly the same for me. I had a Sony Ericsson P900, and a P990. Fantastic bricks.

      Everyone thought it was large. Now, as you say, everyone wants a brick.

      1. NumptyScrub

        Re: People used to laugh at the size of my smart phone.

        quote: "Everyone thought it was large. Now, as you say, everyone wants a brick."

        Actually, what they want is a massive screen; what they will put up with to have one is a big phone (as long as it is light). If they can make a 3" phone with a fold-out 7" screen it'll outsell everything, IMO.

        I'm thinking that Asus should do a companion PadPhone with a smaller phone (3"ish) and a 7" plugin (plugout?) screen... I can see a lot of people accepting that as a viable tradeoff of easy to carry phone vs decent screen size when you want it. The phablet equivalent of the laptop docking station and 23" monitor ;)

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: People used to laugh at the size of my smart phone.

        The want a paving slab, not a brick. Big screen is good, but it needs to be as thin as possible while not compromising battery life.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People used to laugh at the size of my smart phone.

      I had a 9110 and 9210 communicator largely for the proper keyboard, texting was fun on those.

      Plus WAV ringtones instead of those godawful mono bleep ringtones.

  3. MrTivo
    Thumb Up

    Star N9770

    I have a variant of the Kogan Agora, the Star N9770. Slight differences are JB 4.1.1, not ICS, 3200 mAh battery rather than 2000 mAh (two batteries supplied in the box) and allegedly an 8MP camera (although there is some confusion on this point). As with the Agora, it is SIM free and dual SIM slot (1 slot is 3G, the other GSM only)

    I find it runs perfectly well, and can do a whole day with all the bells and whistles turned on, and about 3 days if you shut everything down (data / wifi / BT / screen illumination all off)

    Build quality is no worse than some other more expensive phones I've owned (SGS & Pre I'm looking at you), and the bonus of an extra battery and a integrated battery cover & microfibre front screen cover as well as a separate battery cover, means that I don't even have to buy a case for it.

    Shipping was 9 days from order to door delivery, no import duty or extra delivery charges. Same price as the Kogan.

    GPS is prone to dropping or taking a while to acquire a lock, but then my SGS was no better and it cost 3 times as much. I use the GSM slot with a network SIM and have Samba data only SIM running in the other slot. Therefore I have a free source of unlimited 3G data and a cheap voice contract in the other slot.

    What's not to like?

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      I like both the price and the dual SIM

      Frankly, I think the lack of dual SIM device on the market is evidence that device availability is driven by network operators rather than client demand, so I'm going to watch that device very carefully.

      At that price I may just get one to play with - the shiny stuff is insanely expensive in comparison.

      Having said that, there are some pretty interesting devices coming onto the market so very happy with the article as both an overview and an update :)

      1. Rukario

        Re: I like both the price and the dual SIM

        I'm also keeping my eyes out on something like the Yuntab P500. If it turns out as good as it looks, I might be able to ditch ("gently retire") my P990. I had an old Cect P168 but it would only have one active SIM at a time, and suffered an accident involving water and quite a lot of quicksand-type mud.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any word on whether any of the new crop of "phablets" have any of the features of the note 2? Things like pop-out browsers and video screens, and split-screen apps. They're what make the note 2 really shine. Not much point having >5" of screen if you can only do one thing at a time with it.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      I had loads of split screen apps after I dropped it..

    2. Wize

      Would be nice if Samsung released the split screen as a patch for the Galaxy Tab 2.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Don't know if you'll get it, but my Note 1 just did an update that gave it split screen (also the very, very handy feature that it can tell when you are reading the screen, so doesn't keep turning it off). I know that the SGSII update didn't get the split screen though, so you'll have to wait and see.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          I'm waiting for the update to my Note 1, but I'm on EE, and I understand that they are slow to push updates through.

          Only six months on the warranty, then time to start rooting and getting updates when I'm ready.

  5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. dogged

      Re: No Nokia in this roundup then.

      I was just thinking, what we need here is for a total dickwad to post something entirely unrelated to any of the phones in this article and not even related to the category they fall into.

      And reliably enough, there's Eadon.

      While you're here, perhaps you could drop into and make a "joke" about how those new Mastercard and Visa "payments" don't make you "pay" remotely as much as using Windows! Ho ho fucking ho.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No Nokia in this roundup then.

        He's not even a good troll. Just a socially awkward moron who rarely leaves the house.

        1. PaulR79

          Re: a socially awkward moron who rarely leaves the house

          Hey! I resemble that remark... :(

      2. Neil Greatorex

        Re: No Nokia in this roundup then.

        @ dogged

        We're all so with you on this, have one


        Young Eadon should take a chill pill first, then either get his lobotomy reversed, or his wisdom teeth put back in!

        1. Silverburn

          Re: No Nokia in this roundup then.

          or his wisdom teeth put back in

          He'd have to grow them in the first place. Along with the rest of his adult teeth...

  6. jai

    Take two devices into the shower?

    No, I just take one HUGE one that's too big to fit into the shower anyway!

  7. Richard 81

    Piano player, I ain't

    I have a enough trouble using a Galaxy S2 with one hand. My thumb barely reaches the other side of the screen and often bumps the back button.

    Unfortunate that the PadFone 2 is even bigger, otherwise it would be perfect solution. I'd like to have something the size of (or smaller than) a Nexus S, but powerful enough to drive the 10" tablet when plugged in.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Piano player, I ain't

      I must say I don't understand that. Surely the point of having a phone with a tablet to slot into is that all the big stuff can be handled by the tablet screen. Which allows you to make the phone a bit smaller. I still make more calls than I use data, so I want a phone that's comfortable to hold up to my ear for long periods while I try to solve ridiculous engineering problems with guys on noisy building sites. It's good to shout...

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Piano player, I ain't

      Whilst I don't have any problems with the Note 1 (I can easily reach across the screen, but don't - if I used it one-handed it would be damaged or lost by now!), I do like the idea of a phone small enough to go on a belt-holster without too much overhang that can be docked with a 7" or 10" screen for other use. I'm keeping an eye on this format for the replacement of the Note when it becomes necessary.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Piano player, I ain't

        I quite like the idea of a dumbphone, perhaps with all the smartphone internals, but maybe just the radios. This then docks with a tablet - which has the screen, and whatever bits don't fit in the phone.

        I'd like it to be a Motorola RAZR V3 shaped, clamshell phone with at least the radios and GPS, which can do email, calendar and contact synching with MS Exchange plus some combination of CardDAV/IMAP/EAS/CalDAV to deal with my personal stuff. Link that to a relatively dumb tablet or phablet sized thingy to do the pretty-pretty, handle media content, web-surfing and maybe act as the map screen - and I'd be very happy indeed.

        Or maybe the tablet should be the boss, and the phone merely the dumb terminal. I'm not quite sure the best way to make it work, but the problem with modern smartphones is that they're getting worse as phones, as they become better mobile computers.

        Maybe this is just me having a problem, as apparently data usage is rapidly overtaking voice calling. But for work, my phone gets much more call usage than data - and that's still true for our road-warriors as well. It's dead useful to have my emails on it, but if I could have a WiFi hotspot mode on a dumbphone, I'd be very tempted to abandon smartphones as a bad job. If only the manufacturers didn't seem to have murdered the flip-phone, even though it's the most ergonomically sensible shape for a mobile phone.

        Those 2 RAZRs, despite their several faults, were the nicest phones I've ever used. I abandoned the smartphone in about 2004 (having had a Sony Ericsson P800), and went back to dumphone and Filofax, then replaced with a tablet. I've now had an HTC Wildfire, Nokia Lumia 710 and an iPhone 5, and there are still many times I think I'd be better with a dumbphone that could do email, a Filofax and paper maps.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Another vote for the old RAZR physical format

          The physical format of the v3i was as close to perfect as I've ever had a clamshell. Mechanics as well as design dimensions were *just* right. All it needed was (a) a non-shiny keyboard and (b) a decent OS and it would have been perfect, also because it could go for days on a *removable* battery. Which reminds me, I better buy a new battery for mine before they can no longer be bought.

          It also had another good thing: the top display. It was far more discrete than your smartphone popping up a window over the screen lock and announcing to the world that ex no2 is calling..

          If someone would buy that specific design and put a better OS in it I would buy it immediately.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Another vote for the old RAZR physical format

            I've probably got a spare somewhere. When I got the V3i, I gave the old V3 to friends, who had it stolen from them in Nigeria. I would have gone back to the V3i, in despair at not being able to find a decent replacement, but unfortunately my 2 year old nephew found it - and it's gone to join the choir invisible.

            It was just so pleasant to hold in the hand, the speaker covered your ear, and the mic was near your mouth - so the call quality was naturally good. Plus it fitted in your pocket perfectly and you couldn't accidentally press any buttons, them being covered up. With modern tech you could probably get Android and a 3" screen on one, which would be enough for email, and some apps - with all the heavy lifting left to a second device.

            The little screen on the outside of the flip could then be eInk.

            What a sad pair we are, reminiscing about phones past! But this is the one I think of with affection. My old Motorola MicroTac and green-screen Nokias had great battery life (the MicroTac should have - it was still a half-brick!), and the Sony Ericsson P800 was fun for being such a brilliant try at being a smartphone, but the V3 was such a great combination of being good-looking and functional. It was a pleasure to hold.

            I'll shut up now.

  8. Steve Evans

    Kogan Agora 5.0

    I suspect the Kogan Agora 5.0 would be frustrating to own. Only 512Meg of RAM is going to be a serious restriction.

    My old handset used to have 512, and would get bogged down quite easily with Gingerbread. All the modern OS phones/tablets have 1gig+ for a reason.

    1. Al Taylor
      Thumb Up

      Re: Kogan Agora 5.0

      If the quick fiddle I had with the Agora is anything to go by it's not that bad - certainly felt no slower than my old HTC Desire HD or the Samsung Android pmp I referenced. Of course I wouldn't want to try NOVA 3 on it...

  9. Tom Jasper

    External storage capabilities.

    What's with the lack of micro-SD cards on these devices?

    Seems silly to me - not sure I could survive without my external microSD on my Samsung.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: External storage capabilities.

      Frankly very few users have any use for them. Unless you're storing tens of gigabytes of music or video on your phone and don't want to/can't juggle it around from a pc or over a network, there really isn't any need. So manufacturers prefer to save the space for more battery.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: External storage capabilities.

        agreed uSD is a must for me. Especially if you are having a "mini tablet" that will be a prime candidate for watching thngs on commutes etc.

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: External storage capabilities.

        For me the formula is quite simple - no external storage, no sale. I don't carry lots (my phone doesn't even have any music on it), but I want to separate my data from the machine just in case of failure. (Yes, everything is backed up, but I'm old-fashioned enough to want to be able to remove my data from the machine easily).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: very few users have any use for them

        can you provide a reference for this assertion?

        I rather think the reason micro sd slots are disappearing is to encourage us to use paid-for streaming services or cloud apps, plus the obvious that phones are coming packaged with more memory

        1. Green Nigel 42

          Re: very few users have any use for them

          Apple started this unwelcome trend not only to buy ludicrously expensive RAM in upgrading, but forcing you to buy more storage on the iCloud, which pleases the Carriers with increased data usage with streaming. ( thus justifying their promotion of Apple phones @ its un subsidies high margin price).

    2. Mark #255

      Re: External storage capabilities.

      The nice thing* about no micro-SD card is that it lets the device have a unified storage space. Which means there's none of this "running low on storage space" when you've still got 23 GB left on the SD card, if (like me) you installed the Humble Android Bundle (10 games, >1.5 GB of APKs).

      This is why Nexus devices don't do SD.

      * if you're an OS

  10. jungle_jim

    Bigger batteries

    Seems like a lot of these are getting higher capacity batteries (granted there is more screen real estate to power)

    In general this pleases me.

  11. JDX Gold badge

    Magic Touch tech which means you can fondle your slab while wearing gloves

    That's what I want. I'm sick of tugging my thumb out of my glove to use my phone.

    1. Ru

      Re: Magic Touch tech which means you can fondle your slab while wearing gloves

      Have you tried running a few loops of conductive thread through the tips of the fingers on your gloves?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Magic Touch tech which means you can fondle your slab while wearing gloves

      You can get gloves that work with touchscreens now; they even sell them in ASDA.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Magic Touch tech which means you can fondle your slab while wearing gloves

        I don't want to buy special gloves, I have ones which I like.

        Sewing thread isn't an option on waterproof ones but you can buy little finger-stickers or so I hear. Maybe worth a look on Amazon

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Magic Touch tech which means you can fondle your slab while wearing gloves

      Just use your nose...

      I'll admit to having done this a few times on the clickwheel thingy on my iPod.

      [obligatory] You're holding it wrong.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Name Change

    I wish they were called 'phoblets', sounds much better than 'phablets'

    1. meherenow23456
      Thumb Up

      Re: Name Change

      Or tablones, why does the phone it have to come first?

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Name Change

        tablophone (or tablofon) sounds steampunky

        1. Toxteth O'Gravy

          Re: Name Change

          Or vaguely like Swiss confectionery?

      2. Green Nigel 42

        Re: Name Change

        Suggest Mopads as the phone side is a small proportion of actual use.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Name Change

      how bout 'tomes' ?

  13. n0r0imusha

    Where is the HTC ONE ???

    as the title says

    1. Al Taylor

      Re: Where is the HTC ONE ???

      Wholly arbitrary but in my book screen < 5.0" = phone, 5.0 - 6,.5" = phablet, 6.5"+ = tablet

      so the HTC One and recently announced Asus FonePad didn't make the cut by dint of being too small and too big respectively.

      of course that doesn't explain what the PadFone is doing here, but I make no claim top consistency.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Where is the HTC ONE ???

        I also expected to see the new Galaxy Note 8 in the list since it's currently here in Barcelona, and is in fact a phone as well as tablet. Maybe the SPB budget doesn't stretch to a ticket to mobile world congress; it's not cheap :/

  14. RFC822

    Let's not forget that DELL were the first into this market

    "Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - The successor to the device that started all this large-screen silliness,"

    Come on, Reg, let's not try to re-invent history. The Dell Streak 5 (I still have mine, along with a Note and a Note 2) was the brave foray into this market.

    Yes, they didn't fully support it, and lost faith in the product somewhere along the way, but let's give credit where credit's due.

    1. Al Taylor

      Re: Let's not forget that DELL were the first into this market

      Fair enough, but the Note was the first device of this type that actually sold in significant numbers so I'd argue that it is phablet Genesis from a commercial and user angle even if the Streak was the first with the hardware specs.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Let's not forget that DELL were the first into this market

        Samsung Galaxy Note is the Apple to Dell Streak's Xerox (or Creative)?

        Oh wait... terrible analogy.

    2. Neil Greatorex

      Re: Let's not forget that DELL were the first into this market

      Dell streak, wonderful & useful device, rather reminiscent of the jolly old motorcycle ashtray.

  15. Silverburn

    Dust and waterproof?

    and IP54-rated resistance to dust and water

    Very impressive, but that still only adds up to 30 seconds of baby-proofing, what with their incredible knack of:

    a) working out where your phone is, even when it's hidden from view

    b) being able to drool into the most water-sensitive port of your device.

    Why - in a room full of toys, slides and teddies - are your electronics the things they want to stuff into their mouths the most? And how do they know to start with the most expensive/useful one first? It's uncanny.

  16. Ali on the Reg

    Makes the late Steve Jobs comments about how shrinking an iPad would be a mistake look even more stupid

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      not really. ipad minis are fairly crap. Larger iphones might be a better jack of all trades (for those idevice inclined)

  17. Eddy Ito

    Same for the Galaxy Note 8

    Just as with the original Note, a lot of people are joking about how stupid and pointless having an 8" tablet with a built in phone is going to be. To me it only seems smart to approach from both sides to see if there is a sweet spot in the screen size. I just wish they would redo the H:W ratio, something like 1.414:1 just feels right.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Same for the Galaxy Note 8

      Hmm, tablets matching ISO 216 (A/B) paper sizes... I think you're on to something.

  18. sisk

    Maybe I'm strange, but I'd still rather have a 4 inch phone and a 10 inch tablet. The idea of having a 5 inch phablet trying to do both jobs still doesn't appeal to me.

  19. Dazed and Confused

    Time to upgrade

    Vodafone tell me I can upgrade my contract, get a new phone and pay less if I sign up now :-)

    but can't just cut to a cheaper contract for a few more months.

    I was looking at the Note2, a lot of the time I could do with a bigger screen, but I just can't see it working in my trouser pockets. I was out in Seoul last summer working with some of the engineers from another part of Samsung, they'd found the same thing, they'd bought Notes in the winter when everyone had their coats and jackets and the Note worked brilliantly for them. Then come the summer and all the guys started to find problems with just where to carry one. The women still thought they were great, drop into all but the tiniest of handbags. (don't ask what the women their thought of the idea of men with handbags).

    Anyway I'm glad I waited, the Asus looks like a really interesting device.

    I think I'm going to start to need a tablet in a couple of months time. Now what I really need is them to combine this with a Transformer so I can use it as a phone, a tablet and as a netbook, all in one device, that would probably be the ideal, at least till someone develops on NumptyScrub's idea of a tiny phone with a giant screen.

    All phones are a compromise, and I just don't want to compromise :-(

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    dual sims

    we need more - and not just the budget phones targeted at the lesser developed regions.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scatter-gun marketing

    This all reminds me of scatter-gun marketing.

    Let's just make gadgets in all possible sizes and maybe we will hit it big.

    Personally, anything bigger than an iPhone5 (fill in your favourite small handset here) is problematic as a phone, and if I am going to drag something out of the bag that requires a bigger surface area, then ca. 10" seems to hit the mark.

    Someone here called the iPad mini "crap". Well, I played with one and they are an excellent shot at the smaller footprint market. I wish my larger device was as light as the mini (it probably will be in some future iteration).

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Scatter-gun marketing

      It's called consumer choice.

  22. IHateWearingATie

    Love the diversity of devices...

    ... that manufacturers have come up with - Apple, take note!

  23. Kernel

    Please do you research

    The Alcatel One Touch brand is owned by TCL Communications - it is not part of the Alcatel-Lucent group.

    1. Al Taylor

      Re: Please do you research

      Quite right. I stand thoroughly corrected. TCL bought Alcatel's stake in the handset JV all the way back in 2005. Apologies for the error.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The name led me to believe it was a cross between a feminine hygiene product and a communication device.

  25. Andy Kay

    Note II always had multi-window

    It's the Note 1 which has recently been upgraded to have multi-windows.

  26. Anonymous Coward


    I know it's not available here yet (if at all) but the K900 Ideaphone looks quite sexy with it's Intel innards, 5.5" screen, 400ppi and Lenovo's trademark tank-like build quality. It even had the same 13mp Exmor sensor as the SXZ!

    The only question is the dual core CPU.

    It's also a shame that only Samsung have nailed the wacom-style input. It's something I really like using on my Note.

  27. bazza Silver badge


    The Blackberry Z10 can sort of be used as a desktop. It's got HDMI out, and you can pair a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with it. You get a mouse cursor and everything. Plug it into a TV or monitor, et voila; a desktop machine.

    BB's Docs To Go aren't the complete Office package (simple edits of Word, Excel and PowerPoints), but it's free with the device. That, plus the very good email system and you've got a fairly useful thing.

  28. Mike Brown

    poor people

    Are phablets not for poor people who cant afford to buy a real tablet, and a phone. The real benefit of these things is the contract method of buying it. No money down, and you can walk away with the kit.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Xperia Z for me.

    Looks awesome. The Sony apps do add real value (the Walkman app is REALY good), waterproof and all.

    I see in T3, the iPhone 5 has now dropped to 4th place (below the Xperia Z, Nexus 4, Galaxy S3 in that order), the media darling had fallen quite clearly...

  30. Mullerrad

    Tablet or phone

    I make few phone calls so a bigger screen is more useful. If I hold a large slab to side of my head to take the odd call I dont see the issue. Still on the Note One. I still think I could go slightly bigger, as long as it fits in a pocket and has a removeable battery Im in.

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