Chinese mobile handset maker Huawei announced some new products at this year’s CES that have been getting a lot of attention. At the center of it all is the Huawei Ascend Mate, a 6.1-inch screen monster that has the dubious honor of being the world’s largest smartphone.
Or does it? At 6.1-inch, does the thing even qualify as a phone? Not according to many tech blogs, which are calling it and other devices like it phablets, a word I hate so much that that is the first and last time I am ever going to type it. Whatever you call it, though, what the hell is this thing actually for? It’s way too big to fit comfortably in your pocket like a phone should, but it’s too small and low resolution to make it a particularly engaging entertainment device. It is essentially the worst of both worlds: big enough to be more awkward than a regular phone, but small enough to be less enjoyable for watching videos or playing games than a regular tablet or a laptop.
The Huawei phones are only being released in China for now, and I hope they fall flat on their 6.1-inch faces. They probably won’t — some people seem to like these gigantic things, like the Samsung Galaxy Note — but I think they represent the laziest kind of design. It’s something we’ve seen everywhere from cars to televisions; when you don’t have any ideas for actually improving the product, just make it bigger. Ugh.
Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe there’s some reason I haven’t grasped yet that my phone needs a bigger screen, or that my tablet would need a smaller one, if I had a tablet. Perhaps this is better understood as a sort of mobile-hardware Parry expedition, with Huawei bravely taking the lead in exploring the how big a phone can get before it collapses upon itself like a dying star. Perhaps someone can justify this monstrosity (and others like it) to me in the comments. But there are so many interesting things happening in mobile Chinese hardware right now that it’s very difficult to get excited by such an uninspired offering from Huawei.