Thursday, October 4, 2012

Types of Devices

Nothing crazy and philosophically UX-ish today, just basic, basic phone terminology:


  • Anything with a named OS, on which you can install native applications.


  • Proprietary OS, can install J2ME or BREW apps. Has a browser. May have any number of other features.
  • This was invented while I worked at Sprint. Not necessarily /at/ Sprint, but I remember when I first heard it. We started calling some devices "Smartphones" (I think Palm OS ones?) and then had to come up with a name, for use in filters and so on, for "phones."
  • It means nothing, officially. It's icing on the lack of features, like how cropped (non-widescreen) movies are "fullscreen" instead of "ruined."


  • I first started hearing this term just a couple years ago. No operator will sell you a "dumbphone." It's a term to mean a handset without a browser. But in no way are most of these "just a phone." Almost all (all?) have SMS, lots have cameras, so have MMS, and they can generally install J2ME or BREW apps.

Fuzzy bits around the edges:

  • A lot of featurephones are pretty smart, have touchscreens, and there's lots of J2ME software out there.
  • Again: Nothing to do with touchscreen. The iPhone was, at first, a featurephone (no app store!) and the N95 with no touch and only a keypad (not keyboard) is still one of the best smartphones in history.
  • Dumbphone is a made up, nerd term. Featurephone officially can cover all non-smart devices. See description above for why: dumbphones today are crazy-smart for a plain-old phone from 1999.
  • What's a phone? An iPod Touch (for example) is the same as an iPhone in most ways, but is a... MID? Hard to say what to call these.

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