Since the Internet connection got enabled through mobile phones, we started calling these devices “smartphones” to differentiate them from regular mobiles, which- those days- were mainly for phone calls.
Years passed, and today, in 2017, we still call what we have in our pockets “a smartphone.”
But in fact, we also call them “phones” or “mobiles” - it doesn’t really matter, cause today, they are all “smart” by default. Which means they all have the Internet connection. As well as zillions of other features.
So what is “smartphone”?
It’s a phone. It’s an alarm clock. It’s also a GPS, a camera, game box, web browser, time-planner and much more.
What’s exactly wrong in the name “smartphone”?
Well, actually, it’s not that bad, except what we use today... is neither “smart” nor a “phone” anymore.
Are smartphones really smart?
In the mid-1980s, the National Association of Homebuilders first demonstrated the possibilities of automated "smart houses." Since then, we got flooded with smart homes, smart cars, smart watches, smart glasses, smart fridges, smart vacuums, smart TVs… the list is pretty long.
Why do we keep naming things “smart” purely because they are connected to the Internet?
"There is a force in language change that I call 'laziness.' We tend to choose ways of saying things that are easier."
jokes Meaghan Fowlie, a graduate of linguistics at UCLA.
"One way that words are lost from a language is if no one ever has a reason to use them. This could happen with 'smartphone. "If all phones become 'smart,' so we never have cause to say 'smartphone’'"
If we follow this path, it would mean that to replace a word “smartphone” with something more meaningful, we should just wait until feature phones completely disappear.
Or we could think again, if what we call “smart” really deserves it, in the era of AI and machine learning.
Are smartphones still phones?
When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, he probably never thought the name would be in use over 230 years later. Also, he probably didn’t predict that long-distance communication will be just a small percent of what we do with what we still call ‘phones’ today.
Well, surprise Mr. Bell.
Is making a phone call at least the main function of ‘smartphones’?
Not. Even. Close.
According to a Pew Research study, 82% of smartphone owners use their device to take pictures, while about 80 percent use it mainly to text.
Another report, released by Experian found that for an average American, talking on the phone consumes 26 % of time spent on smartphones, while internet-related activities account for 39%.
In Europe, a survey showed that social networking, web browsing, game playing, and even music listening have all outperformed voice calls on smartphones.
Seems familiar, huh?
Still, we never name our phone a camera or music player.
What’s the better name for a smartphone?
Back in 2008, just a year after first iPhone was released, Jason Chen, writing for Gizmodo, suggested the name "com," and explained:
“It's simple—like 'phone' which was colloquially adapted because 'telephone' was two syllables too long—and it's short for both 'communicator' and 'computer,' both of which describe the device in my pocket better than 'phone' does."
Six years later, in 2014, Tyler Wells Lynch considered the question again on reviewed.com:
“I think we should call them "mobiles."It’s an umbrella term that highlights their most distinguishing feature—their portability. And as the differences between tablets, laptops, and phones continue to blur, "mobile" will be able to cover them all. It’s also a breezy two syllables, and it’s already in use in much of the U.K.”
The term “mobile” is also a unanimous choice for our team.
“Obviously, it should be perceived as a shortcut for “mobile device” not a “mobile phone”
stresses Michał, our RoR developer.
“As this name is already widely used, it’s got the biggest chances for becoming the prevalent alternative for “smartphone”
adds Maciej, who’s also responsible for RoR development.
So, is it likely that we'll stop using the word "smartphone" in the next decade? Well, language habits are stubborn, so we wouldn't assume it will just vanish. But we hope it's just the matter of time when people realise that calling their mobile "a smartphone" is actually... well, not that smart.