One of the questions that is commonly heard if you’re shopping for a smartphone at a kiosk or mobile phone store is, "What makes a smartphone smarter than another phone."
And if you have someone that is not just trying to sell you a high priced data plan, you will hear answers similar to, "This phone can browse web sites just as you would on your computer," or, "This phone can run applications that are mini-versions of the ones you run on your desktop."
These and other answers are true in some respects, but there are some myths about smartphones that should be better explained before you make the jump to a smartphone for yourself or as a gift for another person.
Smartphones can view the Internet just as it looks on your desktop.
There are two parts to this that should be explained. First this truth: smartphones can view the Internet better than most other phones can because they are equipped with faster processors, better web browsers, and usually larger screens than their non-smartphone equivalents.
Where this statement becomes a myth is in believing that the experience will be the same as you would find on a desktop. Even with the most advanced mobile browsers, much of the Internet is a case in seeking and not browsing.
The limited screen size on any mobile device means that only so much information will appear on the screen at one time. And unless you are using a phone that has an EV-DO or HSDPA (read: DSL fast) wireless data connection, those pages will take a longer time to download.
While there are some browsers that do help make this better (Opera Mini, Nokia Web Browser), for the most part the mobile browsing experience is not the same as the desktop one. Not necessarily worse, but your expectations for that glorious Flash movie to play as it does on your 22-inch monitor should be relinquished.
Applications that come with your smartphone (and some that you can download) are mini-versions of the ones that you find on your desktop, making it easier for you to carry your work with you and stay connected.
This is intended to be true. Windows Mobile devices come with Microsoft’s Office Mobile, while Palm devices come with DataViz’s Documents to Go, and some Symbian devices come with QuickOffice. These applications do allow you to take your work with you, and in some cases, even be quite productive while you are away from your desktop.
However, just shrinking an application into a screen that is smaller and into a device that has lower hardware specs does not a great application make. With many of them, the paradigm of tapping to enable/disable features in as few taps as possible does not translate into making some tasks harder than others.
For example, in one Bible program that I use there is the option to add notes to a highlighted verse. To do so, you have to find the verse, tap Menu, select Highlight Verse, tap Menu again, select Bookmarks, select the bookmark you just highlighted, click Details, then click Note so that you can add a note. There is no simple "right click and add highlight and note" in that application, and so you spend more time setting up what you want to do rather than doing it.
This is not to say that all programs are like that, but this is something to consider when trying to decide on a smartphone and how smart it would be to have one.
Having a device with everything it is a greater liability than having several separate devices.
This can be both a myth and a truth depending on what you do with a smartphone (or converged) mobile device.
Some people can work fine with everything in one device and not suffer lapses in productivity, despite application shortcomings or the need for more stringent battery life management. And others find it better to have a several devices dedicated to single tasks, and maybe one or two more that can do multiple things, but only serve those purposes in emergencies.
It’s more important to identify your needs rather than just get the phone whose feature list has everything but the kitchen sink.
Owning a smartphone is more expensive than a normal phone or PDA.
Whether this is truth or myth depends on if you are in a business or lifestyle where the relative benefits of a smartphone — connectivity and communication — are in play in several areas.
For example, you might not need a smartphone if you don’t travel, rarely work away from a computer, and have a broadband connection at your home. While a device that has a better calendar or note taking ability might be a need, the connectivity is not, and so a smartphone would be a reach for you.
However, if you travel frequently, and handle matters that require less face time when going from place to place, a smartphone would be a better investment than separate devices, and possibly save you some time for the things you want to do.
So are smartphones really smart?
They can be. However, as with any technology, it is not the tool that is smart, it is the application of the tool that determines if having it is smart. Go into owning and using your mobile device with the perspective of being a smart user, and the smart tool will be able to do the rest.