Globally, people today have fewer and fewer phones tethered to a wall. It is far more likely we use wireless technology to communicate and because of that solutions like hosted Unified Communications are growing in demand. Yet, identifying the device in our pocket as a phone is erroneous. Yes, it makes and receives phone calls but it does so much more. The term smartphone also misses the mark as it infers smarter communications rather than a device that can access a million applications, most of which have nothing to do with communicating. Even the Supreme Court acknowledges that our smartphones contain so much private information covering so many areas of our lives that the police need a warrant to scan/search the devices.
Previously, I referenced a study by O2 of smartphone usage in the UK where making phone calls represented less than 10% of the time smartphone activities. Making calls was fifth behind browsing the Internet, social networking, gaming, and listening to music. Similarly, the Consumer Electronics Association measured smartphone usage for phone calls at only 20% of total use for Americans. Kinesis found that 15% of the participants in a study examining smartphone user activity don’t use their smartphones to make or receive calls. While the number seems small it represents approximately 40 million subscribers. Kinesis surmises that although some of these users may make an occasional call, it is clear they do not value the device for that purpose. In fact or, at least accepted rumor, people spend more time looking at their smartphone than anything else. Nokia and T-Mobile USA have each released market data showing smartphone users look at their devices 150 times per day. “Looking” dominates “listening” because the most important purposes for the device require reading, watching, manipulating or typing.
So, since the device’s primary purpose is clearly not as a phone, why have we not seen a new name from a major manufacturer or some brilliant innovative or creative person? Obviously, it isn’t cost since we have seen many instances of branding unrelated words to technological devices. Therefore, it must be the belief that a better term isn’t needed right now. I like to think that someone out there is going to come up with a term that better reflects the capabilities and uses of the device which ultimately replaces “smartphone”. I have chosen to call my device a Personal Life Assistant or Personal Life Partner, although “partner” seems a bit strong.