Battle of the big screens

Despite Steve Jobs’ antipathy towards big screens, Apple launched the 14cm iPhone 6 Plus (and a couple of other things) last week. And Samsung, no stranger to taking swipes at its main mobile competitor, responded with a series of ads showing some disappointed Apple staff. Now it’s followed those up with another feisty spot that talks about the initial negative response to its big, “more productive, more innovative, more fun” Galaxy Note and the ensuing scramble from other manufacturers to follow suit. 

Interestingly, the ad uses the term phablet, something Apple tried to avoid. But, as language guru Ben Zimmer writes in the Wall St Journal, “as phones have expanded, so has the word’s usage”. 

Apple is not alone among mobile device makers in spurning the word phablet, and with good reason. While the term has gained acceptance among techie types over the past few years, it has from the very beginning been accompanied by an air of derision. These supersize devices can seem rather ridiculous to use, and the “phablet” epithet conveys that ridiculousness.

The playful blending of “phone” and “tablet” into “phablet” apparently occurred to several observers independently. On Twitter, the earliest documented use of “phablet” came in September 2009, when software engineer Sloan Bowman used it to refer to the Nokia N900, a device that combined the functionality of a smartphone and a hand-held computer—though by today’s standards, it is a bit too small to be considered a phablet.

“Phablet” apparently did not appear in a tech publication until June 1, 2010, when Ian Scales wrote about the 5-inch Dell Streak for TelecomTV: “Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? No, it’s a phablet.” Mr. Scales did not come up with the term himself, however. A few days earlier, he had been introduced to the term by Dan Warren, director of technology for GSMA, a U.K.-based consortium of mobile operators.

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