Blog Post

Apple's iPhone 4: Is That a Smartphone in Your Pocket?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Apple (s aapl) has already sold an estimated 1-1.5 million units of the iPhone 4, but is it a smartphone? As far as commonly accepted definitions go, the device certainly qualifies: It runs a modern mobile operating system, supports installation of advanced applications and features a high-performance processor. But more often than not in conversation, I don’t hear folks refer to it as a smartphone, or even phone, but an iPhone.

This point was driven home when I attended a recent Career Day event at a local school to explain what I do: namely, report on the wireless industry and review mobile devices. To keep things simple, I started the conversation by asking: “How many of your parents use a smartphone?” Not a single student raised their hand, which caused me to break out into a sweat as I envisioned my entire presentation going down the tubes faster than you can say, “Wimbledon needs a tie-breaker process.” But then the light bulb went on and I asked: “How many of your parents have an iPhone?” Nearly two-thirds of the hands went up.

Such simple branding and product awareness goes a long way toward helping Apple sell products. Look at the iPad, 3 million units of which the company has sold in just 80 days. Instead of floundering around by trying to define the device as a keyboard-less smartbook or a tablet PC without native handwriting capabilities, Apple gave it a definitive name with specific, usable functions and in the process — as I noted when the name was first unveiled in January — cornered the nascent smartbook market before that market even got started.

While other platforms have similar recognition — “My dad has a BlackBerry (s rimm),” one child proudly told me — Apple enjoys a branding advantage like no other. And it applies not just to the iPhone and iPad, but other Apple products as well. People have told me that they don’t use a desktop, for example, but instead use an iMac. “No, I don’t work on a laptop at home,” someone recently said to me. “I work on my MacBook.” I simply didn’t have the heart to explain what I thought was an obvious point: a MacBook by every definition is a laptop. And last month when we had some Wi-Fi issues at my house, I asked one of the kids to unplug our router. I got a blank look until I said, “The AirPort Extreme,” to which he replied, “Why didn’t you just say so?” Such brand recognition is akin to that of the Frisbee™– a registered trademark for Wham-O’s flying disc, but a name commonly associated to all such similar toys.

So for those of you with an iPhone 4 in your pocket, have you — or would you — ever call it anything else?

Related content on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Marketing Handsets in the Superphone Era

58 Responses to “Apple's iPhone 4: Is That a Smartphone in Your Pocket?”

  1. I still have the 3GS so the size is a slight bit different but, being right-handed (that’s who’s most likely to have the problem BTW JimmyJack), I must say I find it quite unnatural to hold it while typing/touching/viewing to have the required tight contact across that bottom left corner. Even look back at when Ars was trying to replicate it. They were licking their palms for moisture and trying to readjust their grip so it could occur, and even then not having 100% replication