By Michael Fisher | January 25, 2013 5:45 PM
The word “fonblet” is stupid and ugly and gross. Let’s just … can we all reach a consensus on that before we start disagreeing on the merits of the idea? The term “phablet” is the result of a joke that got out of hand, and I absolutely will not play a part in furthering a similar turn of events for a ridiculous word like “fonblet.”
Unless, of course, it’s part of the product’s official name.
Yes, that was part of the rumor we reported on last week: the new device, in addition to introducing yet another subclass of device into the mobile-phone nomenclature, would bear the strikingly unappealing moniker “Samsung Galaxy Fonblet 5.8.” It’s one thing to dilute the Galaxy brand, but quite another to malign it with such a foul pseudo-word as this.
But we can (sort of) see why Samsung might feel the need to call this something other than a smartphone – or even a phablet. The “5.8″ in the title refers to the supposed device’s diagonal screen size, slotting it somewhere above the already-massive Note II. True, the figure is below the diagonal measurement of Huawei’s competing Ascend Mate, but that’s a device that has yet to see wide release, and we also have our doubts about just how relevant it’s likely to be. It’s very possible that consumers would balk at anything branded a “phablet” that comes in above the Note II’s size, so a new appellation isn’t the least reasonable thing ever.
But there are people out there who would buy such an oversized handheld – as hilariously demonstrated by our own Anton D. Nagy on a recent episode of the Pocketnow Live. And as much as news outlets like to marginalize Huawei, Samsung would be foolish not to respond to the Ascend Mate – not with something bigger, as the rumor mill constantly envisions, but with something better.
And better might just be what buyers get with the Fonblet. Certain buyers, anyway: those interested in an immersive media experience. The Fonblet, if it exists, is almost certainly based upon the Samsung Galaxy Player announced back in August, and since released in South Korea. The Player doesn’t immediately impress with its lackluster qHD display and underpowered hardware: rather, what sets it apart is the duo of front-firing speakers flanking its oversized screen.
We’ve made the case for front-firing speakers before: in short, almost every smartphone and tablet delivers audio to the user upside-down and backwards, blasting sound through side- and rear-mounted speakers and forcing us to cup our hands around their undersized ports to hear anything from the videos streaming through our Netflix or YouTube apps. Recently, some tablet makers started rectifying this shortcoming: Joe Levi talked on a recent episode of the Pocketnow Weekly podcast about how much he enjoyed watching media on his Nexus 10 and Galaxy Note 10.1, due in large part to those front-firing speakers.
It may seem shortsighted to advocate for a device based on a single physical attribute – because it is. And to be honest, aside from its large display, there’s not much setting the “Fonblet” apart from the competition: Samsung will only say that the device comes in white and runs Jelly Bean, and that it’ll be available in Europe. The model number also seems to suggest dual-SIM support.
Unless Samsung is planning on bumping up the display resolution and adding some new features, though, it’s hard to see how a device like this could do well in a market that already has an excellent large-screen solution in the Note II. It’s also tough to say what, besides sheer one-upmanship, has driven Samsung to develop this device – and what’s prompted it to (allegedly) give it such a category-straddling name. When you release a device under such a portmanteau, after all, you’re making the assertion that it does at least a serviceable job at performing the dual functions you’ve built it to serve.
We won’t know if this device can live up to that implied promise until we take a closer look, but for now it paints a very confusing picture. While we’re looking forward to putting ears on those front-firing speakers, we’re not convinced that this example of halfhearted “me-too”ism is the best use of Samsung’s (admittedly vast) resources.