Mobile
Commentary
4/9/2009
01:35 PM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary
50%
50%

What Is A Smartphone?

The New York Times published an article this morning on a few smartphones coming to market that are aiming at the iPhone. While these phones have some interesting features, they don't run any operating system that you'd be familiar with. Can a turbo-charged feature phone earn the title of a smartphone?

The New York Times published an article this morning on a few smartphones coming to market that are aiming at the iPhone. While these phones have some interesting features, they don't run any operating system that you'd be familiar with. Can a turbo-charged feature phone earn the title of a smartphone?The two key phones in the article are both by Samsung. The Impression is sold by AT&T. It has a bright 3.2" color active matrix OLED touch screen and a slide-out keyboard. With its PC Studio Manager software, you can sync music, video and photos from your PC. It supports texting, email and instant messaging. Email seems to consist of a client that is preconfigured for popular services like AOL, Yahoo and Hotmail. Oddly absent from the list is GMail, but the manual does say "and other providers" so maybe Gmail is supported. In any event, it doesn't appear you can add multiple inboxes and Exchange or Blackberry Enterprise Server support is non-existent. Its browsing capabilities are limited by the fact it has a WAP browser, not anything even close to rivaling what the iPhone has. You can buy apps for it, but only through the WAP browser which I assume is pointed at AT&T's store. The last time I checked, that is heavy on games that you pay a per-month fee to access and light on productivity apps like Office support.

If that is the phone someone wants, there is nothing wrong with it, but should that fall into the smartphone category?

The next phone discussed is the Sprint Instinct S30. There are fewer details because it hasn't been released yet. It seems to be similar to the Impression but it does include an HTML browser and the Opera Mini browser. Opera Mini has data compressed and rendered for your phone from an upstream server.

When I think of a smartphone, I think of something that has the ability to sync all of your data either with your PC or to the cloud somewhere, the ability to have multiple email accounts, preferably IMAP as well as POP3 access and should be able to sync with your corporate email server. Syncing with your corporate server should include at least contacts and appointments so you can do all of your data entry on the PC an have it show up to your phone later.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a smartphone is extensibility. All of the major smartphone platforms have online app stores. Microsoft hasn't launched theirs yet, but there have been independent third party stores for years selling tens of thousands of different apps for Windows Mobile. The iPhone, Android and Blackberry all have company run stores.

The definition of a smartphone isn't written down anywhere, so there can be variations on what is and isn't included. I think NY Times is stretching it just a bit including phones like these in the smartphone category. I just know what when I talk about and read about smartphones, I am assuming a well known operating system that has a ton of features that mimic what is on your PC and will let you install as many productivity and personal enjoyment applications as storage space allows. Broadening the definition makes it difficult for consumers to know what they are really getting.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.