The Death of the Smartphone

Recently my 12-year-old son asked, “Why do we call this a phone?”smartphone

He, looking down at his iPhone 5S, had a point. More often then not he’s not using it to call anyone. He plays games, texts, surfs the web and plays music. Not typical functions of a standard telephony device but a modern, very nimble communications device that merges together many functions in a small and powerful device.

Which got me to thinking, if our smartphones aren’t really phones any longer, what should we really call them? And from a marketing perspective, how would you reclassify billions of devices with a completely new term based on the functions we use “smartphones” for every day?

Oddly, as an old school tech guy, my first “smartphone”-like devices were Personal Digital Assistants, devices that replaced notepads, to do lists and some gaming functions. PDAs replaced paper.

Yet, the iPhone was the first successful mainstream volley into something different and a stroke of marketing genius. Combine the popular iPod music player with a multipurpose communication device tied to a massive distribution backbone and see what happens. It worked amazingly well. The smartphone replaced more than paper or PDAs, it replaced many different devices and tools.

We use our smartphones less and less for voice communications as VOIP services take over. So much so that even cell phone companies are having difficulty in keeping up with product demand for GBs per month and how to charge for text messages (which should be free).

Rebranding them isn’t easy. It needs to be short, Tweetable, SMS-able and simple. My suggestion would use a term we use every day and grow it. It needs to be all encompassing and roll up all the many things that we do on our devices. At the end of the day, we no longer just use our smartphones to talk, we use them to communicate in a variety of ways.

My suggestion is simple. We should call our smartphones a better,, more appropriate name. After a few weeks of marketing ideas and a list of long possibilities, my suggestion would be to rebrand a “smartphone” as a “Comm.”

A Comm is one less letter than phone and six less than smartphone (alas, tweetable). And given that most of the commercial websites that we focus on every day use .com, a variation wouldn’t be hard to market. Yet, Comms aren’t just for commerce, they would stand for Community, a way to use apps and networks to create communities of individuals that create new ways to interact and communicate. And it can be Common, a way to think less about walled-in networks and build smarter, more adaptable communities through a list of common APIs, platforms and applications.

Our smartphones really aren’t phones anymore, they’re Comms, devices that allow people to communicate in traditional, novel and new ways. And while paper, emails and text messages continue, Comms remove the analog behaviors of the past and finally embrace a fully digital today. Replaced by hard drives, cloud, interconnectivity and evolving ways to communicate.

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