5-inch devices - a great half-way to tablets, or a phone only a giant could love?

I'm 6 feet, 8 inches tall. For our metric friends, that's 203 centimeters. I have, on more than one occasion, been called the tallest blogger in the world. (And may well be.) I can palm a basketball without any trouble. I cheer on the giants in Skyrim when they punt my lackey into orbit. Sometimes I imagine them doing cute little drawings on the Samsung Galaxy Note, mapping out the constellations the poor soul will be visiting shortly. The fact is, when someone first sees a 5-inch smartphone, be it the ill-fated Dell Streak or Samsung's latest stylus-toting follow-up, most folks think only an unnaturally gigantic person could use the thing to make a call. Well, they're wrong; even for us Gigantors, it's pretty unwieldy. 

I have to say, my time with the Samsung Galaxy Note has definitely helped me appreciate what you little people are going through with ballooning screen sizes. 4-inch displays are now the norm among Android hardware, and make the 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone 4S, sharp as it may be, feel extremely cramped. While 4 inches is perfectly fine for me, cranking it up to 5 makes me realize just how unrealistic it is to use a bigger phone one-handed.  Those larger screens also mean tighter pockets, awkward grips when making a call, and can be a significant drain on the power supply, even if the battery gets an equivalent up-size.

Despite being obscenely huge, even for a behemoth like me, I found myself enamored with the idea of 5-inch smart devices when the Dell Streak first came out. In the world of smartphones, that size is an abomination, but when you look at the Samsung Galaxy Note and any other 5-inch devices next to tablets, the picture changes significantly. The thing is, with a phone this big, it eliminates a lot of the desire to shell out cash for a 7-inch tablet. In fact, if you value portability way ahead of viewing area, then you wouldn't have any use for a 10-inch tablet either. 

The Samsung Galaxy Note compared to the iPhone 4 and BlackBerry PlayBook

The way I see it, there are a few logical mobile device combinations. If you put viewing area first, you'll probably own a 4-inch smartphone and a 10-inch tablet. If you lean towards portability, then a smartphone under 4 inches and a 7-inch tablet might be more your speed. If you want to have the widest range of scenarios covered, you may prefer a 3.5-inch phone and a 10-inch tablet. The 5-inch device fits into that last scenario, but instead of having a device at either end of the size spectrum, you've got just one dab smack in the middle of it. It might not serve you as well as a tablet, but at least you'll have it wherever you go, and you won't have to pay for a second device. If you wanted to go hog-wild on screen real estate, you could rock something like the Samsung Galaxy Note as well as a 10-inch tablet. 

As far as making calls goes, yeah, you feel a little dumb putting something the size of a roof shingle to your face, but the vast majority of my smartphone usage is for data. That being said, I find the landscape virtual keyboard on the Samsung Galaxy Note is the perfect size for my enormous mitts. God knows I won't be using the stylus for text input. 

I would suggest 5-inch devices to people who are 90 percent sure that they don't want to spend the money on a proper tablet or deal with the hassle of hauling around a second device. I don't think it's that crazy to think that there are a lot of people in that situation. How many of you would rather pare things down to one phone if it meant making some compromises in other departments? Is 5 inches too cumbersome for the payoff of being sorta-kinda close to a tablet? Fellow giants, does an equally giant phone appeal to you?

Simon Sage
Simon has been covering mobile since before the first iPhone came out. After producing news articles, podcasts, review videos, and everything in between, he's now helping industry partners get the word about their latest products. Get in touch with him at simon@futurenet.com.