Friday, 10 August 2007

Is the mobile phone extinct?

According to, the definition of a mobile/cellphone is:
a hand-held mobile radiotelephone for use in an area divided into small sections, each with its own short-range transmitter/receiver [syn: cellular telephone]"
and the definition of a telephone is:
1. an apparatus, system, or process for transmission of sound or speech to a distant point, esp. by an electric device."
So, put simply, a phone is used for calling people. In 1985 the GSM standards included some called the Short Message Service, or SMS and the first commercial text message was sent over the Vodafone network in 1992. As text messaging was part of the GSM standards, you could still call the device a phone.

Things seem to have moved on a bit since those days. Lets have a look at an example of a recent mobile/cellphone - the iPhone:
Modern mobile phone
The spec of the iPhone is:
  • 4GB or 8GB flash drive
  • 3.5-inch (diagonal) widescreen multi-touch display
  • 480-by-320-pixel resolution at 160 dpi
  • Uses Mac OSX as it's operating system
  • 2 megapixel digital camera
  • Can play music formats such as WAV, AAC and MP3
  • Can play multiple video formats
  • WiFi and Bluetooth enabled
  • You can browse the internet
It's quite different from the standard concept. A fairly large touchscreen is a great idea for a phone - if you have a massive contact list then it's easier to navigate and with something like the iPhone you can store more details about each contact. A big memory is useful too if you're one of those people who downloads a load of e.g. ringtones.

Remember the definition of a phone and the GSM standards though. If you go by those phone are for calling and texting people. It states nothing about video playback, cameras, playing music or browsing the internet.

I think that there is no such thing as a mobile phone in production anymore. As there is so much added functionality (like what has been mentioned above), you can't really call them phones, or have any name with the word 'phone' in it. Calling people and sending text messages is a subset, and not a superset like it was previously.

So, what can we call them? It's better to use a generic term like 'mobile device' - something which is also used to describe PDAs. It would be difficult to come up with something more specific as it would end up being too long. Can you imagine an advertising department trying to create something for the 'Mobile-SMS-video-mp3-web phone'? Their brains would explode! It needs to be something much shorter and 'mobile device' is definitely shorter than that.

I'm not saying that they should all go back to a state where you can just call and text people because the big positive to having a lot of functionality on one device is that there's less to carry around. I just think that people who want to produce anything called a mobile phone should stick to the definition and GSM standards.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Mobile Phones, Cellphones, Smartphones, iPhone, Communications


Oscar1986 said...

Sweet blog, interesting views, good read. If you get a chance check out my Ancient worldz blog:)love any comments feedback.