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BW Businessworld

Big And Bigger

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If that reminds you of a certain silly movie called Dumb and Dumber, it's meant to.  Exactly how big are smartphones planning to get anyway? And when is it they grow up to become tablets?

At the moment, it seems like that cut-off is at 5 inches. The Dell Streak and now the Samsung Note are at inches, while several HTC phones are getting close at over 4.5 inches — and that's screen size. Their Titan is a huge 4.7 inches. Samsung Galaxy S II, which has just sold 10 million units, is 4.3 inches, incredibly light.

The question is, with tablets being perfectly able to make phone calls, and phones getting as smart as tablets, how does one decide between the two?

More to the point, if you have a biggish phone, is there any point getting a tablet that's only a bit bigger?

I remember putting the Galaxy S I and the original 7-inch Galaxy Tab next to one another long ago and thinking the Tab looked a bigger brother of the Galaxy S phone. At the time the Tab was the only one around (an iPad couldn't be had for love or for money) and had I been considering buying a tablet, I'd have given up the idea.

I thought much the same when I saw the HTC Windows phone and the Dell Streak together, making an awfully unlikely pair. And then again, when I saw a bulky BlackBerry phone with the 7-inch Playbook. The Playbook, in considerable doldrums at the moment, has to be tethered to a BlackBerry phone if you want other-than-Wi Fi connectivity, email, contacts, and calendars in any case. The need for a tablet, if you're using your BlackBerry for mail and messaging, was hardly overwhelming, in that case.

If you can't put distance between your tablet and phone, put size. That is, make the tablet way bigger or keep the phone significantly smaller, otherwise not only are you going get confused about which device to use and when, but one of  the two will be mostly superfluous.

Samsung has, of course, carpeted the entire possible range of sizes in phones and tablets with products, so you have lots to choose from when you consider their range along with tablets from other companies. There are small variations in shape and somewhat greater ones in weight that could also make a difference to the owner's experience. Somewhat narrower tablets will have you two-thumb typing unless you switch to landscape mode.

Thou is speculation that the new Amazon Kindle Fire, to be available from November 15th, could  dramatically change the tablet market scenario — and it happens to be a small-sized tablet at around 7 inches. Expected to offer Apple's iPad some real competition at last because of the ecosystem of products and services (including some Android Market offerings) it will also change the dynamics of the small tabs market because of its $199 price. No one knows yet how the Fire works and feels, so it's too early to predict, but chances are the Amazon tablet certainly has potential strengths to disrupt the fledging small tabs market.

Mala Bhargava is a personal technology writer and media professional.
Contact her at mala at pobox dot com and @malabhargava on Twitter