What is the difference between a smartphone and a feature phone?

We get so caught up with staying on the cutting edge of mobile technology that we assume everyone knows and understands what a smartphone is and what a feature phone is. But it is a wrong assumption. In this article, I explain the difference between smartphones and feature phones.

What Is A Smartphone?

smartphone

A smartphone is a cell phone that has a big screen and advanced functions similar to a personal computer. Those computing functions include an operating system, ability to install and run downloaded apps, email and web browsing. Essentially, a smartphone is a mobile computer.

As such, you can create and edit Office documents and other kinds of documents, edit images and video, read ebooks, manage websites and web servers, run accounting software, run health monitors and medical software, and a whole lot more.

How Convergence Created Smartphones

FREETEL smartphones

Smartphones evolved from the marriage of mobile phones (or cell phones in American parlance) and PDAs (personal digital assistants). PDAs were handheld devices that featured a large screen, a QWERTY keyboard or a touchscreen and stylus for text input, personal organizer, web browser, and other computing abilities.

Eventually, manufacturers began to combine telephony into PDAs – or PDA functions into telephones. Operating systems for mobile devices evolved along with that. And so the first smartphones were born. These first smartphones included the Nokia Communicator series and the Sony Ericsson R380, among others.

Today’s smartphones are mostly classified based on the operating systems that they run – Android OS, iOS, Windows 10 Mobile, etc.

Over 80% of the smartphones in the world today run Android OS. The remaining 20% is largely iOS, with a smattering of smaller platforms that have not gained any significant user base.

What are the most important features of a smartphone?

As the world of mobile phones has evolved over the years, the most important features of a smartphone have evolved too. In 2020, a big touchscreen is probably the most important distinguishing and most distinct feature of a smartphone.

Following that is access to a wide range of apps. Without access to the most popular apps, a smartphone is less attractive to modern users. We see how the US government ban against Huawei, leading to loss of access to Google apps and services has affected sales of Huawei phones. People want access to those apps and services.

Another important feature of modern smartphones is the camera. Everyone and their dog takes photos and selfies these days, especially for sharing on social networks. As such, a great camera i one of the most important features of modern smartphones.

What are the features of a good smartphone?

A good smartphone is one that has a good quality display, great processing power, plenty of RAM for launching and switching between apps, plenty of storage space, solid Internet connectivity, access to a wide variety of apps via an app store, a capable web browser, and a great camera.

Which smartphone features use the most power?

Because the display of modern smartphone is where all the interactions happen, it is the single largest consumer of power in the modern smartphone.  The larger the display and the higher resolution it has (density of pixels), the more power it consumes. The more extra functions it supports, the more power it consumes.

Other smartphone features that use up a lot of power include the camera and games. Some apps that run in the background all the time can also be huge consumers of power.

What is a feature phone vs a smartphone?

the difference between smartphones and feature phones
Feature phones are basic cell phones

A feature phone is a type of mobile or cell phone that does not have some of the main characteristics of a smartphone. Feature phones can make and receive calls, send text messages and provide some of the advanced features found on a smartphone.

As such, a feature phone can be described as a basic cell phone with a much smaller screen, more limited text entry mechanism (usually an alpha-numeric keyboard), and much more limited computing capabilities than a smartphone. A feature phone runs on proprietary firmware, with third-party software support through a platform like Java ME. A feature phone may or may not include internet capabilities. Where internet capabilities is available, the features are very basic – email client and web browser with limited capabilities.

Feature phones often provide a basic calendar, media player, alarm, and a few others. As mentioned before, difference between smartphones and feature phones is that the range of activities that are possible on a feature phone is much more limited than what obtains on a smartphone.

Mobile phone manufacturers that make feature phones include Nokia, TECNO, itel, ZTE, among others.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of smartphones?

Smartphones keep you connected all the time, as long as you are within network coverage area or have access to WiFi. They allow you carry out many computing tasks on the go without the need for a laptop or desktop. Those activities include Word processing, Web browsing, email, social networking, image and video editing, music and video playback, etc.

However, the biggest disadvantage of modern smartphones is the invasion of the privacy of users. A smartphone – whether it is an iPhone or an Android phone, constantly tracks your location and movement and transmits this data to remote servers. All smartphones from mainstream manufacturers do this. It also scans through your Contacts, emails, text messages, calendars and more and transmits many of those data to remote servers for various uses.

Whiel some of the data is used to make your smartphone a more personalised experience for you, there continue to be concerns about how such information can be used in damaging ways. This is the greatest disadvantage of owning a smartphone. And this is why people who do not want to open themselves up this way stay away from smartphones and use dumb phones – feature phones without location tracking and Internet access.

What is a Smart Feature Phone?

The emergence of a new category of cell phones called smart feature phones has further blurred the lines. A smart feature phone is a basic cell phone that has some of the qualities of a smartphone. It has an operating system that allows the installation of 3rd party apps, and it has an app store. See? Simply put, a smart feature phone is a hybrid between a smartphone and a feature phone.

Are there any differences difference between smartphones and this new hybrids? Yes; there are. Smartphones have bigger screens, have more powerful processors, and run more advanced apps. Smart feature phones, on the other hand, have small screens and are able to run on very low processors and RAM. KaiOS is the first smart feature phone OS and it has gained serious popularity since its debut. As a matter of fact, it is the world’s 3rd largest mobile OS by market share now in 2019.

KaiOS-powered Energizer feature phones
KaiOS smart feature phones

Many KaiOS phones offer 4G LTE Internet connectivity and have WiFi hotspot feature.

Can you get a phone without Internet? Is there a phone that just calls and texts?

Modern smartphones and smart feature phones are Internet-enabled by default. Even many feature phones now include some basic form of Internet access, usually limited to GPRS or EDGE. However, there are some very basic feature phones that are not equipped with any form of Internet connectivity. They offer just voice calls and SMS – and sometimes also have a flash light, calculator, and the like.

So, yes; there are phones that just handle calls and texts. They are called dumb phones. Such phones exist in the market and are usually very cheap.

In Summary

So, feature phones are basic cell phones, smart feature phones are basic phones with some advanced features, while smartphones are basically handheld computers. The difference between smartphones and feature phones have been further blurred with the creation of a new category of hybrids called smart feature phones.

There you have it. Hopefully, this article helps you better understand the differences between smartphones and feature phones.

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4 comments

  1. Thank you, Mr. Mobility, for taking time to clarify explicitly the differences and similarities between faeture phones and smart phones. My focus of interest now is the latest feature phones with KAIOS. I just need to get one soon. I might want to give the one made by Tecko a chance.

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