Screen sizes on smartphones and tablets have grown ever-larger over the years. Samsung is reportedly looking to continue that trend with a new Android tablet that sports an 18.4-inch display.
The new tablet, whose codename is Tahoe, will feature Samsung's Exynos 7 Octa 7580 processors and a 1920-by-x-1080-pixel resolution, according to a report today in SamMobile. A release date for the new device is uncertain.
If verified, the Tahoe would be Samsung's largest tablet to date. Currently, that title belongs to the company's line of Galaxy Note Pro and Tab Pro tablets, which feature 12.2-inch screens.
Even an 18.4-inch tablet would appear small in comparison to some of the largest Android tablets already on the market. Those include Nabi's Big Tab HD, which is available with either a 20-inch or 24-inch HD screen.
Tablets Combine Portability, Screen Space
We contacted Samsung to learn more about whether it's planning to release a large-screen tablet soon. However, a spokesperson responding via e-mail said only, "Samsung does not comment on speculation."
Larger screens naturally make it easier for users to "see more at once, and to see more clearly" compared to smaller-screen devices, Amy Schade, UX director and mobile expert at the Nielsen Norman Group, told us.
"While smaller devices are handy for their portability, larger devices can be more attractive for longer interactions, more complex activities, or more immersive content or experiences," Schade said. "Larger tablets can be attractive because they retain some portability while providing the screen space for more complex activities."
Making tablets that are ever-larger, however, doesn't continue to improve usability, Schade added.
"Typing on an on-screen keyboard can become more awkward as devices grow wider than physical keyboards," she said. "Another consideration is focus -- when we sit close enough to touch a large touchscreen device, it is more difficult to view the full screen at once. For instance, error messages at the top of the page can be easily missed if a user's focus is at the bottom of the page."
New Directions as Phones became 'Phablets'
Smartphones over the years have essentially become small tablets (or "phablets," as they're commonly called), according to an analysis last year by Ben Taylor at the research engine FindTheBest. Looking at more than 1,000 devices, Taylor discovered that phones with screen sizes of less than four inches have "nearly disappeared" since 2013.
That's because "[t]he smartphone is no longer just a phone, but a hybrid of devices -- and increasingly, the most common way to interact with the world. A bigger screen allows a mobile device to play all of these roles at once," Taylor said.
If that's the case, it might not be surprising that the worldwide market for tablets has continued to decline. The analyst firm IDC reported in July that global tablet sales in the second quarter of this year had dropped by 7 percent compared to the previous year. Additionally, the top two vendors -- Apple and Samsung -- are also seeing their leads in the tablet market shrink, IDC noted.
Those trends are likely to keep driving efforts to differentiate offerings in the tablet market. While not a traditional tablet, Microsoft's Surface Hub, for example -- set to ship in January with either a 55-inch or an 84-inch screen -- is being billed as a "powerful team collaboration device" for people in the workplace.
Larger tablets, however, can create new challenges for users, as Schade discovered when she brought home a 24-inch Nabi Big Tab for testing.
"(I)t was hard to do anything privately on the larger screen," Schade noted in an online assessment of the device in May. "It was also a bit disheartening to see private information, such as credit card information, displayed in type several inches high and visible from across the room. Rather than thinking of different devices in terms of their limitations and disadvantages, let's focus on the potential for designing experiences that uniquely take advantage of the devices' characteristics."