Phones have been getting larger, looking to bring you more of what you love: a bigger, better, experience. They have become devices that want to give you the ultimate in entertainment, the ultimate in productivity, the ultimate smartphone experience in a package that you can easily take with you on the move.
Devices have been coming from all corners, bringing huge displays but also huge batteries, taking you beyond the endurance of a typical smartphone, even if you'll need bigger hands, deeper pockets or even a bag. Yes gents, you may soon be needing a manbag if you want to carry the latest phablet, and ladies, this could be the ultimate clutchbag filler. The time has come: arise the phablet.
Phablet (noun): A smartphone having a screen size that is intermediate between a typical smartphone and a tablet. (def)
Phablets have fought their way into a space of their own, a hinterland of temptation. Should you be drawn in and go big, or stick with the firmly pocketable? Here we're running through your phablet choices, so if you've decided to go big, you've come to the right place.
The definition of a phablet is still something of a grey area: we'd say the Xperia Z1 and the LG G2 don't fall into this category despite the relative body and screen size they offer, they are smartphones; equally, the Huawei MediaPad 7 Vogue or the Asus Fonepad are too big and we class those as tablets, even though they make calls.
Here we're going to be rounding up the big-screen options, regardless of platform. It's all Android at the moment, but once we've fully reviewed the new Nokia Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1320, we'll see how Windows Phone fits into the selection too.
6. HTC One max
The HTC One max gives you a great 1920 x 1080 display (373ppi) spread over 5.9-inches, adorned with Android 4.3 and Sense 5.5, so it's totally up to date. The display is excellent, delivering authentic colours and great viewing angles.
It's a big handset, however, measuring 164.5 x 82.5 x 10.29mm and weighing 217g, meaning you've got quite a lump in your pocket and it doesn't quite carry with it the superb design values as the original HTC One.
But the size means you get the twin front-facing BoomSound speakers, making this a great device for those who love music or want to watch movies or play games without headphones. The battery is impressive too, with the 3300mAh cell getting you through a day with ease, although you can't change it as it's sealed into the body.
However, the HTC One max isn't as powerful as some of its rivals, despite being one of the newest, running on the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM, the same as the HTC One launched much earlier in the year. Unfortunately, the HTC One max comes at a premium price of £599, so it's as expensive as other, more powerful devices already out there.
QUICK VERDICT: The HTC One max offers the HTC experience on the big screen, but there's little novelty other than the size. The design looks good, microSD card expansion is useful and the BoomSound speakers are the best around, but this huge phone might be too big for some to handle and never really makes use of the screen size on offer, considering the high price.
FULL REVIEW: HTC One max review
5. Samsung Galaxy Mega
The Samsung Galaxy Mega attempts to bring big displays and small budget together. Although the design fits that of the rest of the Galaxy family - like the SGS4 - be warned that this phone really is mega. A 6.3-inch display swells the body to 167.6 x 88 x 8mm and a weight of 199g means it might be just too big to be managable for some.
The display is reasonable, limited in resolution at 1280 x 720 pixels (233ppi), but there's plenty of space for gaming, movies or browsing. It's one of the least powerful devices listed here, which contributes to its low price of around £330, but the 8GB of internal memory is restrictive, especially for gamers who might have to contend with many GBs of game files.
For that low price you get a lot of display on your phone and a Samsung experince that's pretty good: it's better suited to music and movie fans who can store files on microSD, and does come with a few compromises.
QUICK VERDICT: We like the Mega. But there's no doubt in our minds that it will be just too big for most people, and it lacks some of the cool features of something like the Note 2 - the pen most notably - but it's still a great device. That internal storage issue isn't going to go away though, and it will limit a lot of users.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Mega review
4. Huawei Ascend Mate
It's important to note that the Ascend Mate isn't for those who want the best gaming experience, as it's not well set up for that. Where it did win us over was in the usability, screen quality - despite having only a modest resolution at 720p (241ppi) - and the epic battery life. If you need a phone and general "internet" device, then the Mate can't really be bettered. Heavy users will get two days battery life and light users could see three or four days.
The 163.5 x 85.7 x 9.9mm and 198g weight are respectable, but the low internal storage lets it down: 8GB will limit the number of apps you can install that require a lot of data, such as games.
It's nicely designed, feels solid and generally gets the user interface customisations about right. It's got a reasonable pricetag too, at around £330. Just bear in mind that it's not a graphics powerhouse, and you'll be fine. For normal use, the quad-core processor makes it feel snappy and slick.
QUICK VERDICT: While its size will put most off, if you're keen on a big phone this offers loads. It might not have the pen features of the Note, but if you can live without that, then this phone offers you many of the same advantages. Watching video on it is an absolute joy, and for browsing the web out and about, it feels like you've almost got a laptop with you. A solid effort from Huawei, and a phone we're very happy to recommend.
FULL REVIEW: Huawei Ascend Mate review
3. Samsung Galaxy Note 2
The Samsung Galaxy Note took the smartphone world by storm, crossing the divide between tablets and smartphones and really doing a lot to push these big beasts into the limelight. It might be old, but it's still worth considering.
The 5.5-inch display gives you room to play, without being too big for your pocket, although it's only a 1280 x 720 pixel display. There's an older 1.6GHz quad-core chipset at its heart, but it still has plenty of power for cutting through daily tasks.
There's a stylus which might be more popular with those who prefer to note down things in writing, but you can equally just leave the stylus in place and never use it, if it's the larger display that you're after. It's big and beautiful, and far from stupid. With the Note 3 recently announced this model has tumbled in price: you can now pick it up for around £370.
QUICK VERDICT: We're in love. This phone may seem wildly illogical, but those fabulous Koreans have somehow managed to create a device that offers so much more than a smaller phone and almost makes tablets pointless. This phone won't be for everyone, but for us it's one of the best Android devices money can buy.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review
2. Sony Xperia Z Ultra
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is a strange device. It's a technological marvel in many ways, delivering a big screen experience, with plenty of power in a package that's skinny, but waterproof. On the other hand, with 6.4-inches of full HD display (344ppi), it will be far too big for many to conventionally use as a phone.
If it's size that matters, however, then the Sony delivers it. The display is very good, performing better than some of the displays in smaller Sony Xperia devices like the Z1. The downside is that the Z Ultra measures 179 x 92 x 6.5mm. It weighs 212g, just lighter than the HTC One max, and costs the same as HTC's device at £599.
Inside is a power Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM. To help you get the most out of the display, it supports pens and pencils, so you can just pick one up and start scribbling. The software isn't as sophisticated as the Galaxy Note 3's S Pen support, but as a multimedia device, the Xperia Z Ultra delivers.
QUICK VERDICT: You'll either love the concept of a phone bigger than your head or you won't, and that's the bottom line here. But if it's the former you won't be disappointed, we just don't know how many people will fit into that category. The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is a marvel, but a marvel that might be limited in appeal.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z Ultra review
1. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The Samsung Galaxy Note really kicked off the phablet craze, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 takes the format and continues to refine it. In this 2013 model, there's a cracking 5.7-inch display offering a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, giving you 386ppi. It's packed into a frame at measures 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm, making it one of the most compact phablets around.
Some might not like the faux leather back, but you can peel that off and swap it out: as well as access the internals to expand the storage or change the battery.
There's plenty of power, thanks to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset and 3GB of RAM, meaning that everything is slick and smooth. Samsung hasn't ignored the screen space on offer, giving you innovative features through the S Pen to help keep you productive.
You get a lot with the Note 3, but it's also going to cost you a lot at £599. Arguably you can get bigger displays for the same money, but in the Note 3 the blend just feels right.
QUICK VERDICT: There will be some who will dismiss this phone out of hand for being too big. Those people are silly, and will never know what they are missing. The Note 3 is a diamond in the rough, a phone that doesn't just follow that pack, but leads it shouting, "Come on you dozy slowcoaches, at least try to keep up". It has instantly become our go-to Android phone, and will remain so until the Note 4, no doubt.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review