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Cellphones Technology

The Feature Phone Is Dead: Long Live the 'Basic Smartphone' 243

zarmanto writes: "The numbers have been telling us for a while now that (formerly expensive) feature phones have been slowly displaced by more feature-rich, high-end smartphones. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the other end of the market is also receiving active encroachment by low-end smartphones. Now, ARM is suggesting that it's actually quite conceivable for OEMs to produce a 'smartphone' for as little as $20 — as long as you compromise a bit on those things which actually make it a smartphone in the first place. So, is this just more graying of the line between smartphones and feature phones? Or is this an indication that the feature phone (as we used to know it) is finally well-and-truly dead?"
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The Feature Phone Is Dead: Long Live the 'Basic Smartphone'

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  • Re:Not the phone (Score:4, Informative)

    by NewWorldDan ( 899800 ) <> on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @02:18PM (#46931541) Homepage Journal

    When I think about it, I really don't need a data plan anymore. 95% of my data is coming over WiFi networks anyway. My phone is already set up for data at home, work, the coffee shop, several restaurants, and my kid's school. The only time I really need data is if I'm lost and I need a map.

    On the other hand, I'm probably not all that typical. All I'm using for data is mostly email and weather. I don't play games on the phone and I'm not an app junkie. But even if I was, I think I could get by without an actual data plan.

  • by Vairon ( 17314 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @02:36PM (#46931803)

    From []
    "A feature phone is a mobile phone which is priced at the mid-range in a wireless provider's hardware lineup.[dubious – discuss] The term "feature phone" is a retronym. It is intended for customers who want a moderately priced and multipurpose phone without the expense of a high-end smartphone."

    In my mind there's 3 general categories to mobile phones:
    1. basic phone - Can make and receive phone calls. Example: Jitterbug phone
    2. feature phone - Supports limited browsing of web, changing ringtones, very basic games or applications and makes/receives phone calls. Example: Nokia 6020.
    3. smart phone - Runs an OS like Android or iOS with an application pool of thousands of applications to do similar functions as a PC along with making and receiving phone calls. Example: Samsung Galaxy S5

  • Re:Not the phone (Score:3, Informative)

    by used2win32 ( 531824 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @02:48PM (#46931967)

    Have have a cell plan (non prepaid) with four phones. Three are feature phones along with one older non touch screen smart phone working as a feature phone (of sorts)

    All four phones together are less than $60 per month (talk, text and some data). That is $15 per month per phone. Hard to beat. $180 per year per phone. I know people who pay more than that in a single month with ~one~ smart phone...

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @03:15PM (#46932291)

    They're much more popular in areas where computers are not much of an option like Africa. When I was there, you could stop at little wooden booths on the street and buy Feature phones and calling cards for a few dollars right along with various junk food and mystery meat on a stick. Due to the US cellular market being such a disaster no-one from the US's phone would work there unless you were an AT&T international plan. As a result everyone from the US would get off the plane and immediately buy one of these for $5 and enough minutes to call home.

    Are they dead in the US? They were never a "thing" here to begin with. In Africa and other very rural areas with poor infrastructure, they are basically the only computer you can get and are hugely successful. People run full blown businesses off the things. So no, they aren't dead. Most people in these areas have a hard time coming up with the $5 for the phone. The average wage where I was at was $7/month. So the difference between $5 and a fancy $20 smart phone is 3 months salary. Don't get me wrong, these people had wealth (land, livestock, clothes, etc...) . It just wasn't easily transferable to US currency. They bartered a lot.

  • Re:WTF Is "Dead"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @03:16PM (#46932297) Journal

    Apparently "Dead" means "still close to half the phones being sold", aka "doesn't want to go in the cart!" Sure, they aren't gettin' better, but they're not dead yet.

    "Feature Phone" [] is a standard industry term - it means phones that do more than basic calling, and often have installable applications, but aren't based on the iPhone/Android touchscreen designs that have taken over the market and usually don't run general-purpose operating systems (except maybe Symbian.) Most of them either don't have web browsing, or have some crippled-HTML-substitute like WAP. They're usually smaller (remember when being the smallest phone you could get meant it was the fanciest and most expensive?), often have clamshell designs, sometimes keyboards, and actually fit in your pocket.

  • by Mousit ( 646085 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @03:38PM (#46932587)
    It's worth pointing out that having a smartphone no longer requires being forced into an expensive monthly post-paid service, a fact that is very much related to the posted article, if only tangentially. It certainly USED to be the case (in the U.S. especially), but these days there's quite a number of pre-paid services that are like Tracfone, that allow you to use a smartphone. StraightTalk comes to mind, since they offer Android and iPhones. Even AT&T's GoPhone (a service similarly priced to Tracfone, notably) lets smartphones on these days, though in the past I admit they used to outright reject them and tell you they could only be used on post-pay.

    Many pre-paid providers don't even require you to have a data plan with a smartphone. You can live on voice/SMS alone, and get your data needs via WiFi.

    Basically, it's entirely possible these days to enjoy both cheap service AND a smartphone. Though I won't begrudge anyone who truly does want a simple, voice-and-text-only phone. Have at 'em. But people who might like a smartphone but not the expensive service plan should not need to hold out anymore.

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