Not only are phablets leading smartphone growth, they are also changing the entire smartphone user interaction experience, according to a Designmodo article by Armen Ghazarian.
The author defines a phablet as a smartphone that ranges between 5 and 6.9 inches (127 to 180mm). By contrast, the iPhone 5s had a screen of only 4 inches. Samsung effectively created the market with the release of the original Galaxy Note - a stylus-based phablet - which has long set the standard for all phablets to follow, including the iPhone 6 Plus.
Smartphones are increasingly used for consuming multimedia rather than making calls or sending messages, so it isn't surprising that people are opting for devices that enhance this experience.
But how do these devices change user interaction?
Phablets are cool and most consumers are expected to ditch their old smartphones for these devices. But even those consumers are not entirely sure about the comfort of using phablets over regular smartphones. The thing is that screens are getting bigger, while our hands and fingers stay the same. So we have to adjust the way we interact with phablets.
According to recent research conducted by Steven Hoober, “people use their non-dominant hand, and they frequently switch hands, as well as the way they’re gripping the phone.” This refers to different smartphones, including phablets.
But when we look at how the natural thumb zone changes on different screen sizes, it becomes obvious that users are not going to torture themselves with a one-hand grip trying to reach all areas of the screen. The assumption is that they’ll simply change the grip and adjust. With this in mind we can expect that users won’t bother about the big screen size and will just keep changing their grip to hold and interact with the phablet comfortably.
Ghazarian asks, how should user interfaces be designed for phablets? Samsung tried to solve this problem by including a stylus. Apple tried to implement "reachability" - a feature whereby double-tapping the home button would bring the screen down to the normal thumb zone. Designer Luke Wroblewski suggested ordering the most important interaction elements in the UI from top to bottom. Ghazarian points out that this might work for iOS, but it would be a non-ideal solution for Android users.
Certainly, these large phones are challenging traditional mobile interface design practices, and there is much work to be done before using a phablet is a seamless experience.