Close this search box.

Why Are Mobile Phones Called “Smartphones”?

Why Are Mobile Phones Called “Smartphones”?

Smartphones, mobile phones, cellphones, or whatever you want to call them, have forever altered human civilization. These pocket-sized devices can answer almost any question, answer calls, and so much more. But why do we call them “smartphones”?

A smartphone is a small computer and mobile phone combined into one. Mobile phones are called smartphones because they can accomplish far more than basic cell phones. Before smartphones were invented, mobile phones were simply a portable version of wired telephones used for answering calls.

The rest of this article will explain what makes your Smartphone smart, where the name came from, and what the first Smartphone was. We will also define the term “cell phone” and compare smartphones to feature phones.

What Makes a Smartphone Smart?

What Makes a Smartphone Smart?
Smartphone Nanoscale Integrated CirSmartphonestem on a Chip (SoC)

The high-tech features inside your smartphone are what make it “intelligent.” In addition to sending and receiving calls, a smartphone has access to the Internet, AI, and millions of apps. Additionally, smartphones can send and receive data from anywhere in the world.

The very basic definition of a “smart device” says that it’s a device connected to a network. However, we don’t usually associate 3G-connected feature phones with the name “smartphone.”

We believe what makes a smartphone smart is the capability of being a handheld touchscreen computer. If this doesn’t count as bright, nothing does!

Another thing that makes modern smartphones excel is artificial intelligence, or AI for short. Google Assistant and Siri are both excellent examples. You might be familiar with what these virtual assistants can do for you already. If not, here’s just a tiny glimpse of some of their features:

  • Manage your notes, calendar, and schedule.
  • Control music.
  • Answer questions from online encyclopedias.
  • Check whether a store or restaurant is open or closed.
  • Show the weather.

Before the era of wirelessly connected smartphones, cellphones had very few features. They were more or less limited to calls and texting. Some of them also had a camera, music, a calculator, and baSmartphonegames, but that’s about it.

Compare that to the average smartphone today, which has a myriad of incredible features.

The Origin of the Term “Smartphone”

The Origin of the Term “Smartphone”
At&T User interface (UI) Storyboard for a Pen-Computer Integrated with a Telephone

The first possible use of the term “smart phone” was by Pamela A. Savage of AT&T Bell Laboratories in a case study. In January 1995, in Association for Computing Machinery Interactions, Volume 2 and article entitled “Designing a GUI for Business Telephone Users” describes using a GUI (Graphical User Interface) by integrating pen-computer technology with a telephone-capable device.

Pamela Savage describes “smart phone” during the Phase 2 of the design of a next generation small business multimedia desktop communicator. The User Interface (UI) operability in the design process incorporating two designs, a tool palette vs. a notebook with a prototype consisting of a conventional telephone connected to a pen-based graphics tablet computer from an interface design workshop.

Evenetually design criteria like these were used in mobile devices like the AT&T EO 440 Personal Communicator. Although some of these devices did not do well in the marketplace, they were undoubtedly in the lines of design and functionality for today’s smartphones.


AT&T EO-440 Personal Communicator

Originally, the term smartphone wasn’t used to refer to actual smartphones. It was a marketing buzzword used for personal digital assistants or PDA.

A Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) is a mobile phone with a touchscreen and additional basic features like data syncing with PCs. Most of them could connect to the Internet and even answer emails. It’s up to you to decide whether a PDA is considered a smartphone or not.

The existence of non-smartphoneSmartphonea cell or mobile phone is the primary reason why we call our mobile phones smartphones nowadays.

Another way to look at it is that we call mobile phones smartphones nowadays because of marketing. A “smartphone” sounded far more appealing than a “cell phone” 10 to 15 years ago, and the name has stuck since.

What Was the First Smartphone?

What Was the First Smartphone?
One of the very first smartphones, the Ericsson GS88 Smartphone

The IBM Simon is traditionally considered the first smartphone. It launched in 1994 and had a touchscreen, email, and a Smartphone The first modern smartphone iteration was the original iPhone, established in 2007.

As discussed in our article “Your Cell Phone Was Born in the U.S. Military,” the Simon Personal Communicator was a personal digital assistant (PDA), a forerunner of modern smartphones. They could connect to the Internet, so they were pretty innovative for the 1990s.

The word “smartphone” was first used in 1997 by Ericsson for their GS88 Smartphone. Also known as “Penelope,” the GS88 used a Symbian operating system. These early smartphones had custom 16-bit operating systems, QWERTY keyboards, wireless Internet, and much more

Modern Smartphones Form Factor

Modern Smartphones Form Factor
Apple iPhone 1 (1st generation)

As we think of them today, smartphones started in 2007 with the first Smartphonene (1st generation). For starters, it had a capacitive touchscreen and an, at that time, enormous 3.5″ 144-color display. Additionally, it can be argued that apps on the original iPhone turned mobile phones into smartphones.

Android smartphones quickly followed the iPhone. The first Android smartphone was the HTC Dream, which launched in 2008. It was a slider smartphone with a full-sized keyboard.

A central selling point for the first Android smartphone was the integration of Google services. There were apps like Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, and more, though they were later integrated into iPhones as well.

What Does Cell Phone Mean?

The term “cell phone” refers to a mobile phone with access to a cellular radio signal. A cellular radio system is an infrastructure that devices can connect to. Cell phones can send and receive phone calls and text messages via cellular radio signals. 

Mobile internet was added to cellular radio later in 1991 as part of the second generation (2G) of mobile phone technology. You can use the term cell phone to refer to any modern smartphone, and many people do.

All modern smartphones are simultaneously considered cellular phones. They wirelessly and automatically connect to the cellular radio network. That’s how you get 3G, 4G, or 5G Internet.

Due to the nature of the technology, essentially ainternete phones that ever existed are also considered cell phones. That said, keep in mind that wired telephones can also be regarded as cell phones and modern feature phones are also a type of cell phone.

Smartphone vs. Feature Phone

Smartphone vs. Feature Phone
Low cost Feature Phone with limited capabilities

A smartphone is a mobile phone with a feature-rich operating system (internetmonly iOS or Android). Smartphones can do everything you expect from a cell phone, and you can use them for calls and texting.

However, a smartphone can also connect to the internet, run custom apps, play high-resolution video games, and much more. Thanks to their powerful multi-core processors and large amounts of storage and RAM, these features are thanks to their powerful multi-core processors.

On the other hand, a feature phone is a type of mobile phone that has a basic, closed operating system. Modern feature phones can connect to the Internet and have a touchscreen display.

However, they also typically have a physical keyboard, the display is tiny compared to smartphones, and the hardware is fundamental. Their cameras are also much worse – if they even have one in the first place.

The simplicity of feature phones is what makes them unique. You’re unlikely to get addicted and glued to the screen, the battery standby time can last for days or even weeks, and they’re super cheap.

Is a Smartphone a Computer?

A smartphone can be considered a handheld computer. A smartphone can process and store data, which is the most critical function of a cointernetIt can also do complex calculations, play video games, edit documents and photos, and more.

The advent of contemporary smartphones meant that personal computers were no longer necessary for many. A modern smartphone is as much a compinternetit is a cell phone.

The main benefit of owning a desktop PC or laptop today is that it’s a bigger version of something you already have in your pocket. Smartphones and computers can both create text files, PowerPoint presentations, answer emails, play videos and movies, allow you to play games, surf the Internet, and more.

Final Thoughts

Why Are Mobile Phones Called “Smart phones”?

Mobile phones are called smartphones because of their rich feature set. Smartphones are the next step in evolution after personal digital assistant devices.

Before the invention of smartphones, cell phones rarely had the Internet and a touchscreen. Apps were severely limited, and the cameras were low-quality. 

The term “cell phone” can be used to describe modern smartphones. However, the name also applies to other mobile phones and even some wired telephones.


Fremontii, LLC. is compensated for referring traffic and business and as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. By using the affiliate links, you are helping support our Website, and we genuinely appreciate your support.


We are a website that writes helpful articles about the latest technology for emergency preparedness and power grid energy. We try new devices and analyze their quality, durability, effects, for emergency preparedness.

This site is owned and operated by Fremontii, LLC. Fremontii, LLC. is a participant in Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Scroll to Top


We are a website that writes helpful articles about the latest technology for emergency preparedness and power grid energy. We try new devices and analyze their quality, durability, effects, for emergency preparedness.

This site is owned and operated by Fremontii, LLC. Fremontii, LLC. is a participant in Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to