2014 Smartphones: A Phone or a ‘Phablet’?

Phablets, or phone/tablet hybrids, come with bigger screens and more advanced features. But they come with their own set of drawbacks, too. Here’s how to decide.

May 19, 2014

With today’s high-speed 4G and LTE wireless networks, as well as Wi-Fi–enabled phones, you can stay connected wherever you go. For some real estate professionals, that instant access is all they want from a phone.

Most practitioners, though, will likely want a higher-functioning smartphone or a “phablet,” a hybrid phone and tablet that boasts a bigger screen. Shopping for these kinds of smartphones entails more considerations: Are you looking for a more powerful mobile mini-PC, or a phone which will replace your digital camera? All smartphones are versatile, but no single model packs the best of all features. So prioritize your needs.

Start with the screen: Resolution and brightness have greatly improved, but not all screens are easily visible in direct sunlight. Sample any model you’re considering under the lighting conditions you experience in your typical day.

Screen sizes are measured diagonally and range from three inches to just over five inches for smartphones, and go bigger than five inches for phablets. That big screen adds bulk, making some larger models unwieldy in small hands. You want a device that’s comfortable to use.

As far as computing power, the current best-in-class boast quad-core processors — meaning they can tackle up to four tasks at once — and 2GB of RAM. Consider the operating system and hardware of the phone, as it dictates your choices in software apps. Make sure the real estate productivity software you need is available for whatever OS you’re considering.

Smartphone camera features now rival point-and-shoot digital cameras in every way except lenses. Still, with image sensors of 8 megapixels or more, as well as digital zoom, smartphones can capture stills and HD video good enough for online tours. There are also snap-on lens kits available for some models. If you’re looking to leave your digital camera behind, consider the smartphone’s photo and video features and the available accessories.

Ultimately, it’s the battery which determines mobile productivity. Battery power is expressed in milliamp hours (mAh), with the best phones promising run times of as much as 10 hours. Treat vendors’ estimates with some skepticism, as they are based on optimum operating situations. The time charging takes depends on how you use the device, and there’s much you can and will do with the right smartphone.