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HP releases enormous ‘voice tablets’ in India

It’s a Bob Dylan-esque question for the modern age: Just how big must a phone’s screen be before you can call it a tablet?

The answer, my friends, appears to be 6 inches — at least according to Hewlett-Packard. The firm announced a new line of “voice tablets” with 6-inch and 7-inch screens in India on Wednesday, with an eye on launching exclusively in that market in February.

The Android-based devices mark HP’s return to the smartphone market after it dropped out the consumer device world in 2011. The company has since jumped back into the tablet market, but chief executive Meg Whitman had made it clear in October 2012 that the company was taking its time on phones.

The Slate6 VoiceTab and Slate7 Voice Tab and can display high-definition video, take HD pictures with front- and rear-facing cameras and have front-facing speakers.

The announcement highlights the interest manufacturers have shown in making phone-tablet hybrids to appeal to customers who want to streamline their gadget collection. In fact, HP specifically noted that trend in its release announcing the products.

“Consumers are looking to consolidate their phones and tablets, which is propelling the voice tablet market,” said Ron Coughlin the senior vice president of Consumer Personal Systems Group for HP.

Big-screen devices with calling capability have been particularly popular in Asia and Europe, where they appealed to early waves of consumers who were interested in tablets, but not in carting around two devices — particularly on the long train commutes that are more common in those regions than in the United States.

But “phablets,” as these phone-tablet hybrids are so often called, are steadily gaining ground here, as well, as people use their phones more for watching video and surfing the Web than making calls. (LG’s latest curved smartphone, the LG G Flex, has a 6-inch display of its own.) And manufacturers are seeing the size and quality of a device’s screen becoming more important, perhaps, than how comfortable a phone is to hold against one’s head.

Besides, soon we’ll all be using our watches and glasses to talk on our phones, anyway. Right?

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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