If a smartphone is no longer noticeably “smarter” than its competition, is it still a “smartphone”?
Are we still supposed to call these things “smartphones” or what? Now that just about everyone has one I’ve come to wonder whether our flashy iPhones and Androids really so distinguished smart-wise? I’m starting to feel like that term “smartphone” has gone and become old fashioned while no one was looking, because the other day that’s how I referred to my new Galaxy S5 and all of a sudden I felt like binge-watching Matlock. “Hey guys,” I said to a group of my guy friends. “Check out my new smartphone!” And then, in the very same breath, I felt compelled to add, “I’m old, huh.”
When smartphones first started to become a major thing—around the mid-00’s—you had every right to call them “smartphones.” I’m talking about the era of the first big bulky keyboard-having Blackberries and Treos and devices like like. Many came with a stylus, though their screens were a fraction of size of a modern day stylus-having phablet device.
Back then, these bulky pocket beasts deserved to be called smartphones, as they were far smarter than the average phone. They had bigger displays. They had keyboards. Some had real bonafide touch screens (!). If you had one you didn’t refer to it as a phone. You always made sure to say SMARTphone. Because guess what, you didn’t pay all that extra money just to go around calling your smartphone a “phone,” thank you very much.
You could add events to your calendar. You could take 2 megapixel photos of your friends and email (!) them to everybody. You could surf a smartphone-ized version of the Internet. It wasn’t fun, but you could do it, and sometimes, to your smartphone’s everlasting glory, it totally saved your ass.
You were in the minority if you had a smartphone at this time, and when you whipped that puppy out at a bar it did impress girls. I’ve been there. I know. Girls would give you their number just to watch you enter it in to your fancy monstrous device. Wielding a smartphone made you look thrice as successful as you actually were. And if you weren’t successful at all, this was one of those cases where you can multiply something by zero and not have it equal o. In this case, 2 X 0 = 4.
But the golden era of the “smartphone” was short-lived. Technology moves damn fast, and as processors and doohickies got smaller and smaller, it became possible to include “smartness” in more and more phones. Smaller phones, yet phones with even bigger (!) screens. Smartphones became cheaper to own, and it wasn’t long before you were sort of expected to have one. What really sealed the deal was when the first iPhone came out, because there was a device from a company everyone already knew and loved. Not everyone went out and bought it right away, but there was this general feeling of: I’m probably gonna buy one of those eventually, it’s just a matter of how soon. Android rose to prominence during this era too, heroically preventing Apple from completely cornering the market.
I was one of the elite: here’s my old smartphone, a Palm Treo.
And the result of Android bold challenge was a sort of space-race, except with smartphones. Every years the two biggest competitors had to outdo the other technology- and feature-wise. Soon smartphones could take very good photographs; could search the Internet for real; could access and run thousands of free, totally useful “apps,” many of which involves some kind of cartoony bird either 1) flapping around in erratic patterns, as if drunk, or 2) soaring along suicidal trajectories into a gang of pigs in a contsruction zone.
After only a few years of this space race, you were pretty much a failure at life if you were a youngish person and you weren’t hunched over a shiny blue glowing rectangle. At bus stops. On the train. In class. In bed. Whenever. Just all the time.
Smartphones became the new “cell-phones.” Nowadays even your mother has one, though she likely uses only the “turn on” and the “call” functions. You probably have to go over there at least once a week and remind her to charge it. But she has one is the point. Which brings us to my most recent pondering.
Are we supposed to keep calling them smartphones now that everybody uses them? Because it’s starting to sound a bit weird and dated coming out of my mouth. It’s starting to sound akin to calling your widescreen television’s remote a “remote control.” Or calling your PC an “IBM.” Or calling your glasses “spectacles.”
Smartphones are no longer smarter than the average phone because they are the average phone. And having calibrated myself to see through this perspective, I discovered that most people—from grandmothers to little kids to english-as-a-second-language tourists—have taken to referring to their smartphones as “phones.” Period.
And perhaps that is as it should be.
Yes, modern day smartphones are still loads “smarter” than the odd, scuffed-up flip phone you still see every now and again, but at this point it’s the flip phone that needs a rebranding, not your big glowing rectangle of distraction. The formerly market-dominate flip phones are the minority now and will have to absorb any and all name changes necessary for an ever-evolving techno culture.
A flip phone shall hence forth no longer be referred to as a flip phone. Now it’s just an “old ass phone.” Done.
This, of course, creates a kind of retroactive ripple effect, effecting all previous incarnations of the cellular phone. I have compiled a convenient list of all additional name-changes necessary if we want to just call our smartphones “phones” from here on out.
List of naming ret-cons necessary so we can call a smartphone a “phone”
1.) Flip phone = old ass phone.
2.) Non flipping cell phone = ancient ass phone.
3.) Early smartphone/PDA = hand computer.
4.) Big plastic 80’s mobile phone w/antenna = cell phone invention.
5.) Early car phones = Michael Knight technology.
6.) Rotary wall-phones = communication device for WW2 submarines.
7.) Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone = the Big Bang.
Readers: If I missed any please let me know. I think I covered everything. Meanwhile, what do you call your smartphones? Have you embraced them as the new normal yet?
Read my popular series of posts: Life Before Smartphones.