Smartphones = Starbucks coffee or SCAM?

By Sriram V Iyer|22nd Sep 2013
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Smartphones

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing, or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.” – You’ve Got Mail (1998)

I find the name ‘phone’ in most devices we call smartphones as amusing. I am sure there is a study out there, which says how less we use the device as a ‘phone’, i.e. to make and receive calls.

I am sure, a smartphone now is a mobile access to various services like Facebook, Twitter, Games, Navigation, Music and sometimes a calculator, alarm etc. Almost two years ago I wrote about this: “Make Apps, not Hardware!

I think the time has come to stop calling them ‘Smart Phones’, ’Super Phones’ etc. They are ‘Service and Content Access Mobile devices’ (SCAM?) – I am sure this is not a catchy name, but this is what the mobile phones of the day are. Because, in their current form, they are gateways to:

  1. Access Services: Twitter, Facebook, Enterprise Apps
  2. Access Content: Music, Audio, Video, Photos
  3. Create and Share Content

Phone feature is almost just a ‘good to have’, and a side effect of the devices needing connectivity to offer the above services. (How else do we explain big screens that are bigger than the face of the user?) – But, till the name SCAM picks up, I’ll continue calling it ‘Phone’ – But, when the word picks up, remember – you heard it here first!

Coming to the quote in the beginning of the article, I just realised that each phone is unique. A person chooses a phone and then adds different apps (services/ content), customisations to it to make it their own. Each phone has its own distinct personality. This is becoming so important that no longer does hardware/ brand play a major role in deciding a phone. It all comes down to ‘Can I do <something> with this phone?’ which always translates to ‘Does it have an App that can do <something>?’

Needless to say each platform owner – iOS, Android, Windows Phone etc. - competes with the others in terms of building better app stores and supporting a developer ecosystem that motivates them to build better apps. A few days ago, Nokia spokesperson said that they feel that there is a gap in Windows Phone apps and they should work on filling it.

Just like a person has his own personality (or a multiple personality disorder) while ordering coffee in Starbucks, a smartphone is a reflection of the person who uses it. A phone reveals it all – Games lover, photo addict, eternal dweller of Facebook/ Twitter etc.

A smartphone basically comes out of its factory as a plain vanilla(?) computing and communications device, that gets its color and personality from the user.

So, go ahead, dress up your SCAM! (And, don’t call it a phone!)

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