Phablets Show Promise, but Lack of Special Apps Slows Enterprise Use

FEATURE: More enterprises could start deploying more "phablets" after additional applications that take advantage of the larger screens reach the market.

Phablet Future 2

Phablets, those handheld mobile devices with displays that are larger than the typical smartphone yet smaller than a tablet, offer lots of promise for enterprise workers. But so far, they are being adopted slowly by businesses.

That could change, though, as phablets such as the big-screen Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge, the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, Google Nexus 6, Nokia Lumia 1320 and the LG G Flex 2 continue to add features that could entice more enterprise users to take a closer look at them.

The latest phablets include displays that range from 5.5- to 6.1-inches in size, which gives app developers more space to place controls and interactive features.

Among the enterprise-focused features of some of the latest phablets are things like split-screen capabilities for viewing two apps at a time and larger screen real estate, which is welcome for working on a document or presentation that can't be done on a smaller smartphone.

Samsung's Note line of phablets also includes a separate stylus that allows users to hand-write notes that can be captured into documents and emails, as well as built-in enterprise data containerization features to protect corporate data.

The Galaxy Note was one of the first true phablets back when it was introduced in 2011 and has since been followed by a steady procession of similar larger devices, which are still smaller and more portable than tablets. Apple's scaled up iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones debuted in September 2014, partly as a response to the larger mobile handsets that were already attracting attention in the marketplace from enterprise users as well as consumers.

Several analysts, users and business decision-makers interviewed by eWEEK said that the jury is still out on whether phablets will be widely adopted in the enterprise but that they are watching the issue closely.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told eWEEK that because businesses typically move more slowly than consumers in adopting new technologies, enterprises aren't adopting phablets at a high rate, but there are signs that could be changing.

"Enterprise adoption of smartphones, beyond the BlackBerry, was driven initially by [bring-your-own-device] adoption trends," said King. "Phablet sales are following similar trends so there's a likelihood that enterprises will connect the dots in recognizing that larger devices will make it easier for workers to do some tasks that weren't effectively supportable on standard-size phones."

That higher phablet adoption in the enterprise "will be driven by specific industry needs and applications," said King. "In the case of the iPhone, Apple's partnership with IBM is the thing to watch since IBM is working very hard on its own line of industry-specific apps for the devices and to engage developers in similar efforts."

King said he believes that built-in styluses, which are included in Samsung's Note models, could really help drive phablets in the workplace because of their extra utility. He has been using a larger Nexus 6 phablet lately, which replaced a smaller Nexus 5 smartphone, and he said he immediately noticed a "greater ease of use between the smaller phone and the larger phone just from that small increase in size," he said.