Here Come the Windows Phone Phablets?

As phone makers push screen sizes ever-larger, it seems like just a matter of time before Windows Phone gets in on the phablet craze.

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Nokia / TIME Tech Illustration
Nokia / TIME Tech Illustration

As phone makers push screen sizes ever-larger, it seems like just a matter of time before Windows Phone gets in on the phablet craze.

Citing unnamed sources, Financial Times reports that Nokia is working on one such gargantuan phone. Details are scarce, but the report claims that Nokia’s phablet will outshine Samsung’s Galaxy Note in tech specs and will be the “most innovative” product in Nokia’s 2013 lineup.

It’s just a rumor, and even if it’s true, Nokia’s plans could always change. But at this point, it seems pretty likely that some phone makers will give phablets a shot on the Windows Phone platform. (Phablets, if you’re not hip to the silly tech jargon, generally refers to phones with displays larger than five inches, but smaller than seven inches.)

Why has it taken so long? Until about a year ago, it wasn’t clear whether people actually wanted oversized phones. But with Samsung selling well over 5 million Galaxy Note II handsets–at a faster rate than the original Note–the phablet is clearly here to stay. Other companies, like LG and Huawai, have since debuted their own gigantic phones.

The problem with Windows Phone 8 is that it doesn’t support screen resolutions above 720p, and at this point phone makers would much rather use 1080p displays and market them as high-end handsets. That’s why HTC reportedly scrapped its plans for a Windows Phone phablet late last year. Limits on processing power may have also played a role, as current Windows Phones may only use dual-core chips.

But with the next version of Windows Phone, Microsoft reportedly will support 1080p, and will specifically allow phones with five- to six-inch displays, according to both ZDNet and The Verge. It’s possible that the software will even adjust to these larger devices by showing an extra column of Live Tiles on the home screen. Support for quad-core processors may be added as well. In other words, the stage is set for jumbo Windows Phones.

The challenge for Nokia, or for Microsoft, will be to offer software features that are unique to the larger screen size. With the Galaxy Note II, for instance, Samsung built in an active digitizer stylus and created a suite of supported apps. Later, Samsung added the ability to run two apps side-by-side, or one on top of another, making the Note more useful for productivity.

Nokia has some leeway with adding its own apps to Windows Phone, but it hasn’t been able to make significant changes to the operating system itself. This is one area where Android, and Google’s limited control over it, is actually an advantage.

Still, a jumbo-sized Windows Phone could have potential. The extra screen real estate would be great for the built-in version of Microsoft Office, and for playing Xbox Games. It would be interesting to see what Nokia, and perhaps other phone makers, come up with in pursuit of the surprisingly large phablet niche.

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