Remember when mobile phones were easy to categories? There were mobile phones, feature phones, and smartphones.
Mobile phones were literally just that – they could call, and usually send SMS messages too, but not much else. Feature phones generally had only one or two extras, such as a camera, built-in If you have a MP3 player but would like to add music to your library there are a few ways you can do this. The most common option nowadays is … mp3 player or FM radio, and so on.
Then along came smartphones, and the definition of a ‘mobile phone’ changed forever.
As a technology journalist, I’ve had to review a large number of the different smartphone models that have come along over the years, but you never really know a phone intimately until you’ve owned it yourself.
Because of that, it wasn’t until I decided to sell my BlackBerry Torch 9860 that I actually had to shop for a new phone for myself – and rather than looking at each model on its own merits, I had to compare between them all for the first time.
These days though, even BlackBerry’s high-end early models barely look like feature phones when you put them alongside the rest of the smartphone market.
So, what can you expect from a true modern-day smartphone model? Touchscreen seems like a basic characteristic, and you’d be hard-pushed to find a handset without it that could come close to rivalling the market leaders.
Accelerometers are a common feature too – these are the tiny devices that detect the movement of your handset, allowing it to respond to tilting, shaking and so on.
Your phone may also include a magnetometer, allowing it to detect the Earth’s magnetic field; this might sound like nothing more than a gimmick to allow it to run compass-like apps, but it can also have important uses in mapping programs such as GPS and sat-nav.
Interestingly, some media formats that have been around for generations (and those are human generations, not smartphone generations) are already showing signs of being phased out; you are increasingly likely to find FM radio absent from your smartphone, in favour of listening online or via a streaming app.
The days of analogue broadcasts may be numbered, but with smartphones increasingly doubling as personal media centres, capable of storing your entire CD collection in mp3 form (or of creating a music collection purely from downloaded content), broadcast radio may soon simply stop being relevant.
Ultimately though, I have learned that it is not about the features, but about the feel of a phone – it was a long time before any review model out of the box stirred the emotions in me that my beloved BlackBerry had done over the years, but having finally taken the plunge, I can honestly say I have no regrets.