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Phablets: What Are They, And Who Should We Blame For Inventing The Word?

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It's happened - the word 'phablet' has entered the mainstream.

Once used only by industry insiders - and those trying to deceive a partner into letting them buy another gadget - "phablet" is a portmanteau which describes a touchscreen device which is sort-of-too-big to be a phone, but sort-of-too-small to be a tablet.

And no, 'large phone' or 'small tablet' won't do, apparently.

The word has been haphazardly applied to devices in the tech press for the last year or two, particularly in relation to the Galaxy Note and Note II, which have five-inch-plus screens, stylus pens and no obvious pre-existing niche.

But what was once a minority word picked up momentum at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where very large phones became a new industry staple - as noted by a round-up piece by Techcrunch.

"Unlike many a flash-in-the-pan craze, the so-called phablet (phone-cum-tablet) phenomenon is, I would argue, here to stay," wrote Natasha Lomas.

And now 'phablet' has been formally introduced into the English lexicon.

Why the sudden watershed?

Because the BBC has used it in a headline on their Technology homepage.

The Beeb used the word on Tuesday, in relation to the newly-announced LG Optimus G Pro, a five-inch, 1080p handset. "LG Phablet Unveiled" screamed the headline - and the world shrugged in sad understanding.

Still, while it appears we're going to have to get used to reading about phablets, there are hints of lingering resistance. After the BBC used the term, reactive was swift and declarative:


James Weiner
BBC News just introduced me to the word "phablet". Not sure if I'll recover.

Alice Vincent
RT : The BBC just used 'phablet' in a headline.

Connor Beaton
I threw up in my mouth a little. RT : The BBC just used 'phablet' in a headline.

... and eventually the BBC relented, replacing the term in the headline and relegating it to a fourth paragraph usage.

But the damage was already done. Phablets are here to stay.

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So who do we blame for inventing this curious phrase?

HuffPost decided to do a little digging, and find out where the term was coined - and how it came into usage.

Our first port-of-call was the tech blog Gizmodo, which first used the term as a 'tag' in February 2012. In that post, it called out the website BGR for "loathsomely" coining the word.

Following the link we found a post by Dan Graziano, which did indeed use phablet without reference - albeit in inverted commas.

But then turning to Engadget, we saw that the term was first used there in January 2012. Back to square one.

Disatisfied with our haphazard approach, we turned to our trusty friend Google and ran a few date-specific queries. Doing so we found references to the term in 2011 and August 2010

Curiously, Google Trends basically omits these references, and places the origin of 'phablet' in 2012 - when Gizmodo and Engadget picked it up.

Then we gave up and read Wikipedia, where we learned the term was first used by Dan Warren of the GSMA, who reportedly said in relation to the Dell Streak phone-tablet device:

"Some say phone, some say tablet. To me it's a phablet"

And though there is no reference to that exact quote anywhere on Google, he has since confirmed that he is responsible:


Dan Warren
Seeing 'phablet' used a lot For the record, to my knowledge, I was first to say Phablet. I made it up. I'd not heard it before I said it.

Still, as definitions go, it's not quite dictionary material.

Matt Hill, deputy editor of T3, said that even experts weren't always sure where phones end, tablets begin, and phablets sit in between:

"With Huawei's upcoming Ascend Mate phone boasting a massive six-inch display, and tablets such as Google's Nexus 7 boasting seven-inch screens, where does one category end and the other begin?" he asked in an email.

"As desktop and laptop computers also incorporate interactive displays, and product categories fade away as they're assimilated into smartphones, in the future will everything just be touch screens of various sizes with a selection of docks? And if so, what will we call them? "Sir", probably."

The truth is, we may never know who to blame for 'phablet'. And, as with all matters of language and culture, we are all at fault.

But the BBC has spoken, so you may as well fall in line.

So go, gadget fan: learn to read the word 'phablet' without weeping and then trudge to Curry's, buy a phablet, and let it sit - unused - alongside both your phone and your tablet in your rucksack, until you die.

As long as nobody tries to coin "tabphone"...

Oh no.