It’s been headline news this week that smartphones outsold feature phones for the first time. Huzzah!
My first thought was, “They still sell non-smartphones?” My second thought was “Why do we even still call it a ‘phone’?” I mean, a PC is basically an evolution of a calculator, but we don’t get excited about whether or not PCs outsell calculators, and we don’t call PCs “supercalculators.”
If you think about it, making and receiving voice calls is one of the more minor functions of a smartphone. Sure, the devices we use today evolved from a basic mobile phone, and they’ve gotten “smarter” with new features and capabilities and a seemingly endless array of apps. But the term “smartphone” is a bit of a misnomer that doesn’t accurately describe what the device is.
It’s a personal communication and entertainment device (PCED). It’s a mobile pocket computer (MPC). It’s a personal digital assistant (PDA)—much more so than the devices that originally claimed that title. It’s an invaluable tool that enables business professionals to stay connected and be productive from virtually anywhere and at any time.
The “phone” part of “smartphone” doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the device is capable of. Here are five things a typical smartphone is used for more frequently than making or receiving voice calls:
One of the greatest things about a smartphone is that it’s capable of accessing and downloading email over either a Wi-Fi network or a cellular data connection. That means that your email is available in your pocket 24/7.
Texting or instant messaging is a nice middle-ground between email and voice calls. It’s an immediate form of communication, and it’s often way more convenient and courteous than a voice call.
This point started out being called “research.” Whether you need to keep up with breaking news in your industry, or you want to see how your investments or doing, the smartphone lets you surf the Web in the palm of your hand. You can compare features or research better prices while out shopping, book travel arrangements, or look up whether a narwhal is mythical creature or a real thing (Hint: it’s a real animal and it should have totally been called a “sea unicorn” or a “unicorn whale”).
Maps, and turn-by-turn directions are one of the most valuable functions of a smartphone. Whether you’re driving in your car or hoofing it, your smartphone can help you get from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible.
One of the most common uses for a smartphone is as a camera or video camera. Just look at the phenomenal success of Instagram, Flickr, and Vine. The iPhone is the most-used camera in the world. It’s not that the smartphone is a better camera than a DSLR, or even a traditional point-and-shoot—in fact most pale in comparison. It’s simply a matter of convenience because most people have their smartphone with them everywhere they go, and don’t carry a camera around unless they know they need to.
As a matter of fact, the “smartphone” has done just as much to make standalone GPS units and point-and-shoot cameras obsolete as it has for standalone mobile phones, so we could just as easily call it a “smartgps” or a “smartcamera.” Actually, when it comes to Samsung, I guess the “smartcamera” is sort of a real thing thanks to the Galaxy Camera.
So, have fun using your PCED, or getting work done while on the go from your MPC. I was trying to stay focused on functions with some intrinsic value for business users, so I didn’t even cover the fact that you can watch Netflix, read a book, or play Angry Birds as well. Oh, and don’t forget it can also make phone calls if you’re into that sort of thing.
Tony is principal analyst with the Bradley Strategy Group, providing analysis and insight on tech trends. He is a prolific writer on a range of technology topics, has authored a number of books, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.
More by Tony Bradley