in Mobile Phones

The definition of Smartphone

20061129nokian73.jpgDuring my daily scan for news I have found this interesting piece from Yahoo News.

There are two statements I would like to comment on:

Unlike regular cellphones, smartphones have a PC-like operating system and download and run computer programs. Most include advanced data features such as e-mail, instant messaging and word processing. Some, such as the Palm Treo and Samsung BlackJack, have small typewriter-style keyboards.

Computer-like “smart” cellphones are starting to go mainstream, creating opportunities for the wireless industry.

I think that this definition cannot really be considered fully valid as of today. This definition was perfect in the early days of mobile communications where devices without an open operating system could not be considered smart at all.

Today the picture is quite different.

The main point is that mobile phones do not need to have a computer-line operating system to be considered smart. Most depends on what the end user perceives as being smart in relation to a mobile phone.

If I’m a business road warrior I will probably consider smart something that allows me to read my e-mail, look at my office documents and synchronize with my personal computer address book, agenda and to-do list. Probably I will also look for an extended keyboard to ease message writing.

If I am a photo enthusiast I will not consider the businessman device too smart for my needs. I will instead go for a mobile phone with a good camera sensor, plenty of memory to store my photos while I’m on the go and some easy way to share my photos with my family and friends. This is a smartphone from this point of view.

If we look at mobile phones released in the last 6 months, specially in the 3G market, I do not really see to many differences in terms of processing power and resources available to the end user.

There is one point that we need to consider and that, probably, still makes a difference between smartphones and standard phones: the Operating System.

It’s very smart to allow the user to install whatever application he likes on his mobile phone and in this case the Yahoo News definition perfectly fits. Standard mobile phones will allow you to install applications using the Java environment but it’s a matter of fact that alla Java application will sit in a sandbox and will not integrate in any of the phone native functions.

Said this I think that the gap between smartphones and standard phone will be filled very soon. If we look at the long awaited, and not still released, new version of the Java environment (JSR 271 – Mobile Information Device Profile 3) something is changing.

Having the possibility to run Java application in the background together with multitasking will make standard phones very close, if not virtually identical, to what we call, today, smartphones. This kind of functionality will make available smart applications to non-smartphone devices.

This last statement will lead us to talk about Operating Systems in the mobile environment. I will talk about this in another post since it’s a very interesting argument.

The other point raised from Yahoo News is the fact that smartphones are going mainstream. This is true but I think that applications on mobile phones are going mainstream and it all depends on what kind of user you are.

Why do I blog this?

I think that there is not a real need for smartphones. There is a need for smart applications.