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Summary:

Those of us who fall in the “tech enthusiast” crowd like to, no, need to put a nice, neat tag on everything. We’ve spent years trying to explain the difference between “feature phones” and “smartphones”, because we have to put a simple tag on every piece […]

Person with phoneThose of us who fall in the “tech enthusiast” crowd like to, no, need to put a nice, neat tag on everything. We’ve spent years trying to explain the difference between “feature phones” and “smartphones”, because we have to put a simple tag on every piece of tech gear. It’s just how we roll.

David Pogue feels that “smartphone” is no longer fitting for the phones of today. According to Pogue, the new phone is much more capable than the old smartphone, and the term no longer describes what these phones can do in just a word or two. He feels that a “smartphone is a cellphone with e-mail” and that new phones today are simply too capable to be lumped in with these old phones by name. That’s the reasoning behind his putting “app phone” out there. While it fits one of the primary benefits these new phones provide, it just doesn’t resonate with me.

Others have referred to the new, capable phones as “superphones.” The reasoning behind such a moniker is that once you get a platform behind a smartphone, it gets super powers. There’s a fair bit of logic behind this, but for some reason I don’t feel the love for “superphone.” Maybe it’s knowing that there will be another, more capable version of such phones down the road, and superphone is a hard act to follow.

So, if we absolutely must pin a new name on the über-phone of today, what should it be? We have to honor our obsession with putting neat tags on new things, after all. It’s time to poll you, dear readers, to get your suggestions for naming the new generation of phones. What say you?

By way of suggestion — I have a few ideas that should be taken with a grain of salt. I often look at things from a skewed angle, and this is no different.

Wingman — The über-phone of today ties us into our peeps like never before. Social networking is ingrained in the very home screens of these phones. Our phone has our back, in other words.

My junk — Phones today are often the tool we use to access our information no matter where we happen to be. We have all of our contacts, our music, photos, even videos we hold dear. The phone is the tool we use to carry all of our junk around with us. Of course, calling our phone “my junk” would lead to rather comical moments, including such statements as “I left my junk at home today, and man do I feel incomplete.”

My little buddy — Our phones have become our little buddies that are always with us, thus the tag. “I’d be lost without my little buddy with me.” You get the drift.

These are obviously put forth in jest, but if you were seriously going to suggest a new tag for these very capable phones, what would it be? Leave it in the comments and let’s nail this down.

  1. if the reasoning for app phone is that the old ones where just phones with email, the writer never really explored much beyond blackberry before the iphone hit market.

    and while its a mouthful, i am leaning towards pocket computers. As the phone capability is just a nice extra on top of all the other things these machines can do.

    and with the 4G networks coming online, calls will be voip anyways, just routed into a POTS gateway by default.

    basically, what i expect to see is that soon these “phones” will be sold with docks that allow attachment of keyboard, mouse and display, so that when docked they can operate as computers.

    hell, redfly just got blackberry support, with android in the works, and i think they had a desktop “dock” in the works as well.

    these are no longer phones that can also run programs, these are computers that can also make calls.

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    1. “if the reasoning for app phone is that the old ones where just phones with email, the writer never really explored much beyond blackberry before the iphone hit market.”

      Agreed. That was the first thing I thought when I read this too.

      I don’t know who this David Pogue guy is but I don’t understand why anyone would listen to him when he clearly has very little idea about the topic he’s discussing.

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      1. heck, my last 3 phones have done email, and neither would i consider smartphone…

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  2. “Dumbphones.”

    New smartphones aren’t smarter than older smartphones, they’re dumber. It’s just that the internet has gotten much better and much more developed. Also, the way we use the internet on a minute by minute basis determines the benefit of an always networked device.

    The reason I can now use online banking from my iPhone isn’t because the iPhone is so powerful or because of its accessible UI, it’s because an enormous financial institution constructed a secure portal so that I can more easily use my money, making it more likely that I’ll let them hold onto and use my money as well, and possibly so that I’ll generate overdraft fees. What makes Droid something Pogue wants to call by some new name is presumably its Google integration. And Google integration is great because of the way we are already using Google services. All you need is a front-end with a UI, and Google’s servers hold all the data and perform almost all of the work. If you get hardware and software that makes your media or other files accessible to your smartphone, you’re simulating the same circumstance, but at your own expense.

    The only thing that has changed about “apps” is their distribution. Ever since the PDA, mobile electronic devices have been able to run apps that you purchase somewhere.

    I used to think a smartphone was something with an accessible file system. The iPhone deviated from that model and became an “internet phone” so to speak. Or, a dumbphone. It’s so dumb, anyone can use it. When I look at the N900 and the Open Pandora, I think of them as “super mini computers,” one of which is also a phone.

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    1. heh, i have often said that if the iphone is a smartphone, so is my C702, given that it can handle multiple j2me apps running at the same time.

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    2. Now that I think about it, “internet phone” is probably most accurate. “Smart phone” was the result of PDAs, which were always conceived of as something you would synchronize with your computer’s PIM, acquiring phone features.

      The model now is that we want a phone that can use the internet, more and more integration with internet services, and in the process the acquisition of functions that used to be tied to a hardwire networked terminal or computer (or recently to a notebook), like email, IM, etc. A smartphone is a more useful utilization of those functions in many cases, because it’s always on and always networked. The main disadvantages come in because of limited screen real estate and user interaction.

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  3. James, I think when you write úber-phone (with an acute accent), you really mean über-phone. That is, the German umlaut mark should be above the small u.

    I don’t like “app phone” either because many of my older phones allowed me to develop and purchase apps. There might not have been a vendor-provided “app store” but there were/are certainly places to purchase many different kinds of apps. The fact that Verizon, Apple, et al. finally realized that they should organize (and profit from) the developer community surrounding their products, says nothing at all about the product itself, so “app phone” isn’t a useful name.

    “Pocket computer” isn’t a good name because that could mean my Nokia N800 which is certainly a computer, but not a phone.

    I would just stick with smart phone, partly because it’s already out there and most people understand it immediately to be something more advanced than an a basic telephone. But mostly because this market is changing really fast so any new name will probably sound quaint in a year or two.

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    1. You are correct, and it has been fixed. May the umlauts win. :)

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    2. and thats exactly why i use “pocket computer”, as in theory the N800 can be used as a phone, via voip.

      note what i said about 4G basically turning voice features into voip, thanks to it first and foremost being a data carrier, vs 2G and 3G having a dedicated voice channel with a “bolted” on (especially in the case of 2G/GSM where voice and data cant be used at the same time) data channel.

      hell, had there not been issues with spirnts wimax efforts, resulting in nokia pulling the N810w, one could probably have used that as a (voip)phone already.

      and thats where we are heading, just observe the N900, and how it puts skype, IM and email right next to voice and sms.

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      1. Yes, but if the point of inventing this new terminology is to clear up some alleged confusion in the marketplace, a term like “pocket computer” would only make things worse. My N800 is clearly a pocket computer since it fits in my pocket and is a legitimate computer. But it’s not a “phone” as most people understand that term since it can’t use any cell phone carrier to make calls. Sure it can use Skype, SIP, etc. but that doesn’t make it a substitute for an iPhone, Pre or Droid.

        A totally new term like comphone (computer phone) or computicator (computer communicator, but I think that was an actual HP device about 10 years ago) would be better since it doesn’t mean anything today.

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      2. @robert, that only applies as long as mobile phone networks are the only really ubiquitous (i kinda dislike that word) wireless internet access system.

        basically, i would say that looking at it that way is like driving into the future with the eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror.

        there are people that have used the N800 as a phone while abroad, thanks to skype, rather then pay for roaming or get a local sim card.

        and with services like google voice, that can handle anything from sms to voice mail, and even transcribe the voice mail and send it as email, things get really interesting.

        end question really becomes if one have a phone to reach out, or to be reached, any where, any time. If its the latter, then yes, the N800 will not replace the phone, thanks to wifi being hit or miss.

        but really, the N800 is fading, the N900 has a 3G radio in it, and yet nokia is all about “oh and it can do phone to” about it, rather then “its a phone that can do net”.

        hell, archos is planing a “phone” version of their recently released archos 5 internet tablet, a first for them.

        and again, the focus on the next gen mobile “phone” networks are data first, voice as a optional extra. Hell, its only recently that big players got together to hammer out a common way to do voice over LTE, rather then it being part of the spec from day one.

        basically, the iphone, pre and droid are a collection of transition device, maybe one can call them feathered dinosaurs, that right now are phone with net on top. Tho depending on usage they can just as well be pocket computers with phone as just one of many features.

        just watch how both pre and another motorola phone, cliq, acts as social networking devices, by linking all your various profiles and contacts into a single whole.

        hell, i am not sure, but i am willing to bet that one can, either now or soon, make video calls from a android phone using google talk, to someone logged into their gmail account from a laptop or similar, using either wifi or 3G interchangeably.

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      3. “Pocket Computer” reminds me too much of the “Pocket PC,” like my old HP RX4100 running WinMo2003. That hardly sounds like innovation…

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  4. First off, I’d take out the word ‘phone’ since calling and receiving calls are just some of the things the gadget does. It is a mobile computer and communicator. Lets leave the phone paradigm and call it a Mocomm.

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  5. these new phones are web focused so the name needs to reflect that. webphone?

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  6. You already hit it right on the nose. They should be called über-phones. Two reasons; first, über is the perfect way to describe something that is above and beyond the capabilities of something else (namely smartphones), and secondly, anything with an umlaut in it is full of awesome.

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