Review: HTC One Max, Nokia Lumia 1520 offer good, giant choices

Nokia Lumia 1520Nokia Lumia 1520 is among the first of its size, while the HTC One Max is largely a giant version of the regular, 4.7-inch HTC One. (Nokia)

I find giant phones hard to carry and use, but I'm well aware that many people like the bigger images and text they offer. These so-called phablets, with screens measuring about 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) diagonally, are nearly as big as the smallest tablets. Unlike tablets, they can make phone calls over cellular networks.

Two new ones are worth considering. Neither comes with a stylus, a signature feature of Samsung's 5.7-inch (14.48-centimeter) Galaxy Note 3, which is one of the most popular phones of its size. But the 5.9-inch (14.99-centimeter) HTC One Max and the 6-inch Nokia Lumia 1520 both have larger screens than the Note.

Nokia Lumia 1520 ($585 without contract, $199 with contract through AT&T)

The 1520 runs Windows Phone 8, which has a sliver of the smartphone market and thus fewer software developers making apps for it. But apart from that, the 1520 is a decent phone.

It's also among the first Windows phones of its size.

What I like about Windows' approach to bigger phones is that text and images don't simply get blown up. The software adapts the layout to take advantage of the larger screen.

With big Android phones, including the Max, you see about the same amount of content that you would on a smaller phone, just somewhat enlarged. With larger Windows phones, you get a third column of apps on the home screen. You can preview two lines of emails rather than one, and you see more contact information at once for people in your address book.

There's also a new driving mode, which lets you block incoming texts and calls when you're near a Bluetooth device associated with your car. You can set it up to send automated replies to say you're driving.

Windows phones of all sizes come with a free Office app to read and touch up documents. With iPhones and Android phones, the app is available only as part of a $100-a-year Office 365 subscription. None of these Office apps are meant for heavy-duty work, though.

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