That device in your pocket is smart but it’s no longer a phone.
As name guys, what to call it interests us. “Phone” is wrong because person-to-person voice communication is a shrinking part of smartphone usage. Voice calling will soon be demoted to “an app” alongside Angry Birds and Find A Pizza.
In Japan, text messaging alone accounts for more smartphone usage than voice calls. This trend was kick-started by NTT Docomo (the leading service provider with a 50% market share), who bundled unlimited texting into every account at the launch of its i-mode service on the smart handset below in 1999.
On a level voice-text playing field, the Japanese consumer opted for texting.
In the U.S., tariffs and rules remain tilted toward voice. Cellphone providers see themselves as “phone companies” – perhaps reflecting the views of senior telecom execs who learned the business in the halcyon days before Ma Bell was rent asunder by deregulators run amok.
The decline of voice calls is easy to understand. Voice is “synchronous communication” – both parties must be willing and able to talk and listen at the same moment in time.
Text, mail, and just about every other act of socialization possible on your smartphone are “asynchronous”. Each party reads, writes, or whatevers at their convenience.
So the smartphone is not a phone. Pocket computer is accurate but uninspired. iPhone is inspired but proprietary and (forgive us Steve) inaccurate.
What to call that thing in your pocket? The need for a new generic word cries out to us at NameLab. It’s not a job – alas, the English language is not a paying client – but we’re on it like brown on rice (this is California, after all).
Your ideas would be greatly appreciated.