BERLIN -- Think of an iPhone that you have taken a rolling pin to, and what you get is the Lenovo Phab Plus. Yes, that is Phab as in phablet and Plus as in plus-sized. The Lenovo Phab Plus is a giant smartphone or a mini tablet, depending on your point of view, but for most people it will simply be a sign that the world has gone completely mad.
Lenovo has already launched the 6.8-inch Phab Plus in its home country of China, but at IFA 2015 in Berlin, it announced that it was so confident in the popularity of the massive device that it was going to be launching it in a range of new territories in the coming weeks, with the tantalizing price tag of $299. However, despite the price being announced in dollars, the company has not officially announced U.S. distribution.
Having seen the Phab Plus introduced on stage, I was intrigued, so I went to have a look for myself to make sure I wasn't seeing things. (I should note at this point that Lenovo has an even bigger version of this device, simply called the Phab, which has a 7-inch screen, but I thought that was just too crazy to even consider.)
Phab Plus: Design
In real life the Phab Plus looks and feels just as big as you would expect, though at 7.6 mm it is impressively slim. My first instinct was to try to fit it into my pocket, and while obviously putting it in front wasn't an option, it did slide easily into my back pocket -- though with several inches of it protruding from the top.
Holding it in one hand to use as a phone is almost impossible despite Lenovo's claims that it is "designed for one-handed use." The company has tweaked the Android software to pop up a smaller keyboard that snaps to one corner when held in one hand, as well as the ability to turn on the screen with a double tap and take a picture by holding your finger down on the screen.
As I mentioned above, the overall look of the phone is that of a bigger, slightly less premium iPhone 6 or a slightly smaller iPad mini. Appearancewise it is fine, but it doesn't do anything to stand out from the crowd. It's just a bit plain.
Phab Plus: Screen
So, to that screen. You get a 6.8-inch LCD panel that has a full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, giving you a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch (ppi), which is acceptable, but when you consider that Sony's new 4K Xperia Z5 Premium has a pixel density of 808 ppi, you know you are not dealing with an ordinary panel.
Watching video on the Phab Plus, which is its primary purpose according to Lenovo, was OK, but if I were watching a video, why wouldn't I just use a tablet with a decent-size screen? As for using the device as a phone, the screen is (surprise, surprise) just too big. When I spoke to a Lenovo spokesperson about the phone, he told me that people used to think a 3.5-inch was too big and now the average smartphone screen is 5 inches or more. Yes, but you can still legitimately hold and use those phones with one hand -- something not possible with the Phab Plus.
Phab Plus: Hardware
As for hardware, the Phab Plus has a relatively impressive spec sheet, given its price. The phablet is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chip with 2 GB of RAM and comes with 32 GB of onboard storage. There is a 3,500 mAh battery to keeps thing ticking over.
In my brief time with the Phab Plus, the interface seemed to be nice and responsive, with apps opening quickly and switching between them happening with a minimum of lag.
Phab Plus: Camera
The Phab Plus comes with a 13-megapixel rear camera sensor, and while it sounds decent, the quality I was able to get was not great, though admittedly that wasn't in the greatest of lighting conditions. On the front, you get a 5-megapixel sensor, and as you can see above, one benefit of having such a big screen is that framing selfies is much easier.
Phab Plus: Why?
The simple answer is, I don't know. But big phones are big business in certain markets, mainly in Asia, and Lenovo is not the first company to bring devices of this size to the market and likely won't be the last. The Phab Plus is better described as a small tablet that will allow you to make calls, rather than a big smartphone -- and that is how Lenovo should market it. While officially Lenovo didn't say if the Phab Plus would definitely be coming to the U.S., a spokesperson said it was more than likely, but not until 2016.
At the end of the day, choice is a good thing, I guess, but this feels more like Lenovo is chancing its arm rather than having a compelling reason for launching its Phab Plus.