With everyone using smartphones these days, have you ever asked yourself what makes a smartphone smart? Do smartphones have human-like intelligence?
On the eve of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung had a coming-out party with “The Wave” smartphone running its own proprietary “Bada” operating system.
According to MocoNewsNet, Samsung’s President, J.K. Shin, declared the end of feature phones and the rule of smartphones that will democratize all people to the ends of the Earth.
Well, now, I have no objection to every person on Earth using a smartphone, but his statement caused me to re-think the definition of “smart” and whether, indeed, “dumb” phones are headed for the garbage heap.
Until industry marketers declared cell phones were like humans, only people (well some) had this attribute. Machines–your fridge, stereo, electric meter and mobile phones–were not “sharp” in the human sense of the word. They simply performed the function for which they were programmed.
But people have a natural tendency to attribute human qualities to things of all sorts when they mimic person-like behaviors. Smartphones aren’t the exception.
Examples. You can program your coffee maker to brew in the morning at your chosen time. Electric utility companies now install “smart meters” that are more precise (they say) and remotely measure your electrical use.
Those whose electric bills rose after installing a digital meter should be quiet; after all, how can such a device make a mistake? See my blog post “Smart Meters Invade Northern California.”
“Smartphones,” however, have taken the world by storm–not a perfect storm, as iPhone owners will attest–because of their multiple features: calling, texting, emailing, maintaining calendars, taking photos, playing music, gaming, Web surfing, geo-locating, remote controlling and more.
A smartphone, of course, is only sharp, like humans, to the extent its operating system and mobile software work harmoniously, not always the case when the wireless device freezes up.
So…Are smartphones really intelligent or do their human companions only think so because they do so many tricks?
The dictionary may help. One informal definition of is “having or showing a quick-witted intelligence.” I’ve yet to find a phone with any wit whatsoever.
Another: “…of a device capable of independent and seemingly intelligent action,” as in “hi-tech smart weapons.” Not true, again, although I kinda like the the weapon feature. Every mobile phone should have this to protect themselves from biting dogs and barking humans.
Still another: “…showing impertinence by making clever or sarcastic remarks” like “don’t get smart or I’ll whack you one.” To my knowledge, smartphones haven’t insulted me yet, although some owners have.
The term also refers to “a person or place that is ‘fashionable and upscale : a smart restaurant.’” Yes, some smartphones are like that, although most owners probably call their fashionable phones “cool” or “awesome.” So much for dictionaries.
And the last definitions I really like are “quick or brisk,” as in “I gave him a smart salute” and “painfully severe,” like “a dog that snaps is given a smart blow.” Samsung and other phone makers should pay attention to these. I’d like my HTC Hero phone to give me a “smart salute” in the morning. Then I’ll strike the “smart blow” when my phone’s touch screen is unresponsive.
No, I don’t think smartphones are really that. They just seem intelligent. Google might take control of my Android phone and spread my private information across the Internet. But smartphones need users to set up, charge and take care of. Otherwise, The Rolling Stones, Mozart or The Harlem Gospel choir would wake you at 3 a.m. and your BlackBerry would vibrate during an important meeting.
Meanwhile, I hope Samsung folks and others at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona who go “ga ga” over the latest “smartphones” read my Mobilebeyond post: “A Day in the Life of a 4G Wireless Mobile Phone Guy.”
The 4G guy named his smartphone “Charlene,” a useful personal assistant who is conversational, entertaining and meets all my qualifications for a smartphone.
…Wow, that smarts. My BlackBerry just hit me.