Feature Phone Death!
The feature phone actually does still exist, however, it has been on a
fast decline to extinction since smartphones became pervasive AND
inexpensive options became available. When prepaid wireless
first launched, it was all about the feature phone, and it took quite
some time before smartphones became available on prepaid. Now
more than ever, people ask "What exactly
are feature phones?". It's essentially
the opposite of a smartphone. While it has an operation
system (as every phone must have), it's not an open platform.
Think about the classic candy bar phones, or flip phones.
from making phone calls, they could store contacts, display calendars,
access the Internet (via specially formatted WAP pages), and even had
applications to monitor stocks,
weather, movies, etc.
However, the operating systems powering these feature phones are closed
systems. Unlike today's smartphones, they have limited
hardware (i.e. processing power and memory), and features could only be
added by the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) that owned and
operated these platforms. Let's not forget, though, that
these phones evolved considerably, and allowed us to have access to
more and more features as technology and these
operating systems evolved.
The modern smartphone, however, has far exceeded the capabilities of
even the most capable feature phones. So why did the feature
phone not die immediately following the availability of
smartphones? When smartphones first came onto the scene, they
were very expensive, and arguably lacked speed to make them really
desirable and affordable. In fact, they were buggy, and added
unnecessary complexity to simple functions. Now that the
price of smartphones
has come down dramatically, and even the least expensive ones are
capable, people (and carriers) have come to expect the flexibility that
In addition, feature phones offered a different user experience across
and across providers. So if you changed phones from a
Motorola to a Samsung, you'd need to virtually re-learn how to
accomplish basic tasks, and there was minimal user customizability to
suit our own personal needs. Manufacturers did try to keep
some common logical flow, though it certainly was never a great
transition, and even transferring contacts between phones could be a
pain, if not impossible. I remember having to manually
re-enter my contacts each time I got a new phone!
Yes, in the later years there were export and import features that made
such a transition less painful, however, it was never as simple as
switching between smartphones, which now simply involves logging into
your Google account on your new phone (or other supported
service). All-in-all, open platforms like Google Android and
Apple iOS are far more powerful, capable, and affordable than ever
My One Gripe!
I do have to note that now that smartphones have largely
phones, I have noticed that making a simple phone call on a smartphone
can be somewhat irritating, often taking more steps, and overall
delivering a slower
than a feature phone. Improvements on quickly accomplishing
basic tasks needs to continue to improve. That said, the
reality is that the current generation doesn't even know what a feature
phone is! Although they still do exist, they really are
largely dead, and no one is mourning the loss!
Also, some people do complain that smartphones are simply too
complicated and overwhelming. Not everyone enjoys tinkering
with the options, and dealing with software bugs as we've sadly come to
expect on our computers, tablets, and smartphones. Many
people still just
want to make phone calls, send a few text messages, and check the odd
thing here and there on the Internet with no fuss and no
hassle. Truthfully, smartphones don't always seem so smart
when trying to accomplish simple tasks.
So What's The Answer To This Complexity?
People like simplicity. Apple has proven this time and time
again by selling inferior, less capable products at elevated
prices. Why do people buy into their products?
Because no matter what the product, they're simple to use. An
iPhone may not offer the same degree of customizability as an Android
device, but what it does do, it does really well, and things just feel
seamless. There's absolutely no doubt that people flock to
such a great experience, even though certain functionality is
The death of the feature phone is essentially here; there's no doubt
about that. Open source operating systems like Android will
continue to evolve to provide simplified interface options (ex. Samsung
has an "Easy" mode with simplified features, and larger buttons and
icons). We'll also see app and launchers on the Google Play
store that enable simplified interfaces. Kids mode is a good
example of an implementation along these lines.