With the news of Microsoft acquiring Nokia, there has been a resurgence in the news of the terms “feature phone” and “dumb phone” (both as contrasted to a “smartphone” – and why is “smartphone” one word, but not “featurephone” or “dumbphone”?) So, some of you may be wondering “just what is a feature phone? And how is it different from a dumb phone or a smartphone?” We explain.
First, a smartphone, as most of us know, is a phone that is fully-featured – with its own operating system, email, web-browsing, text messaging, and lots of apps. When one thinks of a smart phone, one primarily thinks of an iPhone or an Android phone, or maybe one might think of a Windows phone (Microsoft is trying to change this being in last place in the hearts and minds of smartphone users with Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia).
At the other end of the spectrum, a dumb phone has no fully-fledged operating system, and is basically only capable of connecting to the cellular service, and making telephone calls and sending and receiving text messages. Oh sure, they have address books, calendars, and various other features (for example we love the Nokia 1616, which is a dumb phone but sports both a flashlight and an FM radio!). But they don’t have much else. Like the Internet (which makes them perfect for kids, actually).
In between the smartphone and the dumb phone is the “feature phone”.
Google Definitions define the feature phone as “a mobile phone that incorporates features such as the ability to access the Internet and store and play music but lacks the advanced functionality of a smartphone.”
Another way to look at it is that a feature phone is very similar to a smartphone, but is “not an iPhone” and “not an Android phone” and “not a Microsoft Windows phone”.
What this essentially means is that there is no app store (generally speaking, however you often can download games and apps to your feature phone), and your phone is not an iPhone or Android (or Windows) phone, but it will still have lots of cool features, including a camera, music, perhaps a keyboard, and web-browsing and other Internet-based features.
And it may cost considerably less than a smartphone.
So, bottom line, ‘smartphone’ refers to (only) an iPhone, Android, or Windows phone; ‘dumb phone’ refers to a phone that is extremely basic, with (generally) no Internet or other bells and whistles – although there are dumb phones with cool features, and a ‘feature phone’ falls somewhere in between.
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