The Blurring Line Between “Smart” Phones and “Feature” Phones


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The Blurring Line Between "Smart" Phones and "Feature" Phones Listen to this article

Gear Diary LG Voyager

My fiancée is on Verizon, and I use AT&T. It’s becoming clear that we really should just bite the bullet and move to a family plan on one of these carriers, as the combined savings would ease the pain of an early termination fee, plus we wouldn’t waste minutes calling each other from the grocery store. (This could also be solved by me simply writing down in more detail what we need before I leave, but that’s too easy.)

Unfortunately for me, she’s very pleased with Verizon and is reluctant to leave. I tried enticing her by offering to purchase her an iPhone, and she flat out refused, saying “What do I need an iPhone for?” I pointed out she pays for a data plan for her LG Voyager to check her email and browse facebook, and the experience would be better on an iPhone. But she didn’t see it the same way.

For her, using the mobile web versions of her favorite websites, like Facebook and Gmail, worked perfectly. I asked her to show me how fast she could access her mail, and she did it in 3 clicks. One click to access the menu for the web browser, one to open the web browser itself, and one to click on the Gmail link on her browser’s homepage.

I pointed out she could get her Gmail in one click with a smartphone, and she told me she didn’t want to buzz all day like I do. We went back and forth, but it became clear that for her, a “feature phone” offered more than a smartphone did, even though she basically uses it as a pseudo-smartphone. She keeps her calendar on it, she answers emails, posts on Facebook, and browses the web. Her main point against smartphones was that any smartphone that offered her anything similar to the form factor she liked about her Voyager would be bulkier and more complex. And she really hates the idea of push email.

It got me thinking about the line between smartphones and “feature phones”. That line is getting significantly blurrier. We now have plain old phones sporting HTML browsers, email clients, 3+ megapixel cameras, touchscreens and other fancy features. What makes a smartphone different? The distinct operating system? The power user options?

When the iPhone first came out, the lack of 3rd party apps had many detractors yelling that it was a feature phone, not a smartphone. Now, there are few who would argue it is not a smartphone, but the idea of a very high-end featurephone seemed to have been spawned from that first iPhone’s success.

With Verizon looking to start its own app store, and the range of options being offered on Sony Walkman phones, Nokia phones, and especially LG and Samsung phones, how many us “need” a smartphone, and how much of what we do all day could be accomplished on a plain phone?

I am curious if any of our readers out there have a similar attitude to my fiancée; do you look at people toting blackberries, windows mobile phones and iPhones and think “I can do 90% of that on my lowly ____?”

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?