This from JP On the Run feels right to me:
I find one common theme to the conversations I have with “regular” people about the phones I use, and that is that regular consumers do not care about smartphones….
Consumers are buying phones for the features, maybe a good promotion sucks them in first, but they are buying a phone, not a smartphone. They delight that their new phone can tap the web, let them email their friends, but at the base of it all they are simply buying a phone….
I find this true even among those who already own smartphones. Most of these owners aren’t even aware what platform is powering their phone, because they simply do not care. It’s a phone. It does some cool things, but it’s a phone.
I am obsessing about my Pre right now, because that’s what I do, obsess over my new toys. The people I show it to think it is cool. But no one I know is thinking about buying one. We were at a party this afternoon, and I saw lots of people making phone calls, but I didn’t see anyone but me who pulled their phone out in order to look something up, much less check email or even send a text message. And as far as texting goes, every phone does that now … it’s not really something you associate specifically with a smartphone.
Wikipedia says that there is no agreed-upon definition of smartphone, then tries anyway:
Most devices considered smartphones today use an identifiable operating system, often with the ability to add applications (e.g. for enhanced data processing, connectivity or entertainment) - in contrast to regular phones which only support sandboxed applications (like Java games). These smartphone applications may be developed by the manufacturer of the device, by the network operator or by any other third-party software developer, since the operating system is open.
In terms of features, most smartphones support full featured email capabilities with the functionality of a complete personal organizer. Other functionality might include an additional interface such as a miniature QWERTY keyboard, a touch screen or a D-pad, a built-in camera, contact management, an accelerometer, built-in navigation hardware and software, the ability to read business documents in a variety of formats such as PDF and Microsoft Office, media software for playing music, browsing photos and viewing video clips, internet browsers or even just secure access to company mail, such as is provided by a BlackBerry. One common feature to the majority of the smartphones is a contact list able to store as many contacts as the available memory permits, in contrast to regular phones that has a limit to the maximum number of contacts that can be stored.
I’m not sure that most of us even understand everything that is being discussed here. I only know about accelerometers because of how they impact what my Pre can or can not do. The point is this: for most people, the ability to make phone calls, send text messages, and take/view pictures is all that matters when it comes to a phone. If I tell them that my phone multi-tasks, they wonder why anyone would care. Look things up on Wikipedia? Wait until you get home. Check how your favorite team is doing? Turn on the TV.
The future will surely be different. When we got our first computer, around 1983-4, most people thought it was cool but hardly anyone bought one … what would be the point? Twenty-five years later, even people without computers understand the point. And eventually, smartphones will be the same. It would help if they got cheaper, but then, that’s been the case forever … the newest technology is never cheap enough to be accessible to those with lower incomes. That’s something to keep in mind whenever you think there is a tech revolution going on.