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When is a Phone Still a Phone?

The mobile devices we use to call people today are nearly always referred to as phones. However, over the last few years, they have evolved well beyond that. They are now essentially pocket computers.

Since the release of the iPhone, nearly all smartphones have desktop grade internet browsers and screens with resolutions similar to the screens on our computers. So, where do we draw the line between phone and computer?

One feature phones have always had is the ability to make phone calls. However, computers can also make phone calls. In fact, they can make video calls. All they need is Skype.

One common aspect of all mobile phones today is that they fit in your pocket. However, there are several reasons for that not to be the categorising factor of a phone.

Not all phones are able to fit in pockets. Phones in the 1980’s were big, heavy and had external antennas. Nobody uses those phones today, and the car batteries inside them are probably a safety hazard. However, they are still phones.

There are many other objects that can fit in your pocket. These include tablets, credit cards, candy bars, TV remotes, and many other objects. Anything you can shove in your pocket. This also includes MP3 players.

With the thought of MP3 players in mind, we should be asking another question. Why is the iPod Touch categorised as an MP3 player? It can do everything an iPhone can do, with the exception of reading a SIM card.


So far, the only real categorising factor of phones is the earpiece at the top. All phones have them, and it is used for listening to the person on the other end of the call. However, that can’t define what a phone is. We never really have to use that earpiece on modern phones, and there is a good chance manufacturers will stop building it into their future phones.

I think mobile devices should be recategorised. I think we should rename smartphones to ultraportable computers and put them in the same category as the iPod Touch. However, for now, average users will probably continue to think of their devices as what they evolved from.

Posted on Thursday 6th December 2012 - 1 comment