Why 'smartphone' is a dumb label

Three reasons why everyone should stop using the S word

ABI Research analysts ruffled gadget-enthusiast feathers recently by suggesting that Apple's upcoming iPhone, though "clever and capable" cannot be considered a "smartphone." The reason, they said, was that a smartphone features an "open, commercial operating system that supports third party applications."

Really? Since when?

Most authoritative sources disagree about the definition of the word "smartphone," although nearly all say that it's a phone with PDA and Internet functionality, and say nothing about the "openness" of the OS.

Gartner defines "smartphone" as "A large-screen, voice-centric handheld device designed to offer complete phone functions while simultaneously functioning as a personal digital assistant (PDA)."

Palm's definition is: "A portable device that combines a wireless phone, e-mail and Web access and an organizer into a single, integrated piece of hardware."

I searched a wide range of sources, including all major American technology publishing houses, gadget-book publishers, online dictionaries, encyclopedias, the Wikipedia and others, and not one of them agrees with ABI's requirement that a smartphone by definition runs an open OS that supports third-party software development.

Does that mean the iPhone really is a "smartphone"? Who cares?

The word "smartphone" itself is the problem. The term is misleading, inexact, confusing, practically useless and totally obsolete. Here are three reasons why everyone should stop using the S word:

1. The industry avoids the word 'smartphone'

The pundits, experts and enthusiasts, including us in the press, love to use the word "smartphone." We love it so much we're blind to the fact that vendors in the industry we cover aggressively avoid the term. Here's how the major handset manufacturers categorize their products:

-- Nokia uses: "Camera Phones," "Bluetooth Capable Phones" and "Video Recording Phones."

-- Sony Ericsson uses: "Talk & Text Phones," "Camera Phones," "Music Phones," "Design Phones" and "Web & E-Mail Phones."

-- LG uses: "EVDO Phones," "Bluetooth Phones" and "MP3 Phones."

-- Palm calls all phones "Smartphones."

-- Research in Motion calls all phones "Devices."

-- Samsung and Motorola avoid the categorization of phones altogether.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mike Elgan

Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?