Tech Talk: Why size matters

YOU hardly need me to tell you that size isn’t everything – but just how big is your phone? And if it’s more than 5in from corner to corner is it a phone at all, or a tablet? And what’s the difference anyway?

Phones have been getting bigger of late, to the point where some of them will no longer even fit in your pocket. The Samsung Galaxy Note, for instance, has a screen only fractionally smaller than a basic Kindle e-book reader. You can write freehand notes on it with a stylus, as if it were a real notebook. Except a real notebook might not be as big.

Which raises the question, if phones are this big, what’s the point of tablets?

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The answer comes down to personal preference, but it’s perfectly possible to have a single device which fits all your needs: media player, web browser, book reader, emailer, camera and, of course, phone. The Galaxy Note, at 5.3in, is the biggest smartphone on the market and if that screen suits your eyes and your fingers it’s the only device you really need. If not, you may want to consider a basic phone and a 7in Google Nexus tablet, which, for £160, does everything a phone does except make calls and send texts.

The Nexus is made for Google by the Taiwanese computer manufacturer, Asus. But that firm is keeping its options open with the release of another model which serves as a phone and tablet by literally splitting itself in two.

The Padphone 2 measures a smidgeon less than 5in, but comes with a dock which more than doubles its size. The idea is that you carry the phone around with you until you get home, at which point you slot it into the dock – the back of which houses a sparkling 10.1in touch-screen display.

The advantage of this arrangement is that your messages and documents are always available no matter whether you’re using your phone or your tablet – because they’re the same device. So far, so good. But the Padphone 2, when it launches soon, is likely to cost more than a regular phone and tablet put together. And with the increasing take-up of cloud storage services sharing documents between devices is not really a problem.

The optimum screen size for a one-size-fits-all device is six or seven inches, but it’s no coincidence that no-one makes such a thing. As it stands, phones stop at 5.3in and tablets start at seven. Manufacturers aren’t daft, and this equation conforms to the oldest marketing trick in the book: why sell you one device if they can sell you two?