“Smartphones” are not phones

I’ve recently acquired a Samsung Galaxy S II Android “smartphone”, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

All day long and wherever I am (more or less) I have unlimited access to my email, my social networks, the news, train times, price comparison, my todo list, my calendar, note-taking, shopping lists, sudoku, maps and a hundred other things that augment my life and improve my productivity.

And then once in a while some smarmy git will say to me, “well, my phone makes voice calls.”

And herein lies the problem with the language we use. Phones are supposed to make and receive voice calls, but my device is not a phone. It’s a palm-sized tablet PC with voice-calling capability.

I probably wouldn’t miss voice calls much if my device didn’t make them. I could cope for a few hours without the ability to receive calls but I’d feel awfully disconnected without access to my email. The phone capability is a great bonus, but it’s certainly not the primary reason I own this device.

Let’s stop calling them smartphones and give them a name they deserve. I vote for “robot servants”.


  1. Ruth
    Aug 11, 2011

    Oh, duh! YOU are the person I should ask about purchasing a phone. If you wanna advise me, I’m on gchat (invisible, tho).

  2. Foo
    Oct 1, 2011

    That’s the endless march of marketing. ‘PDA’ was an established term, albeit rather over-generic and based on some concept of executives with their own personal secretaries (only this one’s digital). Lots of fairly silly names for technologies have stuck simply because they entered into common usage. I agree that ‘smartphone’ makes less sense than ‘PDA’, but that’s only because you’ve stopped to think about it (rather like when you say a word a few too many times and suddenly realise how utterly ridiculous it sounds; you’ll soon forget). ‘PDA’ couldn’t be applied to new tech because even incremental innovations require new names to emphasise how novel they are compared to what you bought last year.

    Still, could be worse; ‘iPhone’ could have become entrenched as a genericised trademark. I only recall having my Android phone called an ‘iPhone’ once, and even then only by someone who’d explained to me how “they” had recently discovered a new source of energy, based on magnets and perpetual motion.

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