Regarding The Phablet Experience
Of the design parameters for mobile hardware, size presents the most prodigious compromise. Smaller devices promote portability and usability, while larger devices improve functionality. This dichotomy creates a mobility barrier, which (for me at least) exists at a screen size of 5.5". Below that, grab your phone and go—no thought required. Got a new phone? No problem; it still fits in your pocket, purse, or bag, and you can hold a cup of coffee while checking your email. Once you break through the mobility barrier, however, things get more complicated. The pocket in your expensive designer jeans is now next to worthless. The cup holder in your car can’t hold your phone while it charges. And text messages go unsent while carrying your groceries home.
While these issues are mostly trivial and workarounds abound, the point is a phablet will force long-entrenched habits to change. Whether or not cracking the mobility barrier is worth the inconvenience depends on how a larger screen enhances the things you do with your phone. Watching videos and playing games are both more enjoyable as screen size increases. Browsing the Web requires less scrolling, while viewing pictures doesn’t require frequent zooming to see smaller details. The most significant advantage for me is larger fonts. Reading small text on my iPhone 5s for 15 to 30 minutes strains my eyes, triggering headaches. This problem is mitigated by the Oppo N1 and its large screen.
Productivity apps also benefit from the extra space. Taking notes and creating mind maps is a breeze, although reaching the middle keys on the keyboard while typing in landscape mode is tricky unless you have exceptionally large hands. Even I had to stretch to reach some keys with my long fingers.
Another activity that becomes viable with a phablet is sketching or handwriting. Screens below the mobility barrier are just too small to draw on. With a phablet, however, there’s enough room to represent simple objects and write whole words. Granted, if those tasks are important to your workflow, a full-size tablet remains optimal.
I certainly enjoy the N1's larger screen, both for leisure and productivity. However, it does come with a few drawbacks. First, it makes my iPhone 5s screen feel cramped; now I need to spend money on a bigger phone. Second, I have trouble using the N1 with only one hand. Even though my hands are larger, I can only reach about half of the screen. The N1’s size and weight make holding the phone more difficult, too. Only the device's lower half fits within my grasp, while the unsupported top portion tries to wrest itself free of my hand. Watching a movie, reading a book, or having a lengthy phone conversation all create hand fatigue, and I found myself either switching hands frequently or enlisting the help of my other hand for support.
The N1 barely fits inside my pants' cargo pocket in portrait mode. Carrying the extra weight isn't an issue, but unlike my iPhone that just disappears, the bulk of the phablet is noticeable. It's always there, pressing against me, and with my stick-like legs, everyone can see what looks like a big brick in my pocket. It's workable, but not ideal. Carrying it in my back pocket is even less comfortable, and while I don't have a belt clip, I can see how some people might have trouble with the phone poking them in the side when sitting or making certain movements (Ed.: Or just looking silly, for that matter).
Phablet floor syndrome describes the curious condition wherein people with very large smartphones unexpectedly drop them on the floor. This commonly occurs when the afflicted individual tries to remove the device from their pocket or operate it using one hand. Preliminary research implicates a combination of size, weight, and surface texture as the cause. Upon receiving the N1, I experienced a mild form of this disease. Fortunately, I recognized the symptoms early and took precautions. The only known cure is a grippy texture applied to the phablet’s case, which the Oppo N1, with its smooth, ceramic-like coating, doesn't have. If you come into contact with the N1, I recommend buying a case for it with a rubberized texture, lest you fall victim to this disparaging ailment.
Despite the risks and inconveniences, a significant number of people are embracing larger phones. A recent report by Canalys showed that “a third of smart phones shipped in Q1 (2014) had 5"-plus displays,” and 11% of all smartphones shipped in Q1 were beyond the mobility barrier. Furthermore, the sales of smartphones with 5" and larger screens grew 369% compared to 29% year-over-year for the overall smartphone market. These data clearly show a shift to larger, more capable phones, and Oppo’s well-made N1 is set to satisfy this demographic.