The Future Is Here
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Smartphone Is a Dumb Word: We Need a New Name

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It's 2008. Why are we still calling the devices we carry in our pockets "phones." The difference between cordless phones and cell phones is just one word, though the difference in functionality is vast. Even more clumsily, we call phones with email and web browsing "smartphones," despite most modern geeks using less than 10% of their battery to make calls. With so many disparate core features—emailing and browsing, plus texting, video calling, video recording, pic snapping, music listening, video watching, game playing and day organizing—shouldn't we be ditching the word "phone"? The term is so...1876. We need a new name, and I humbly suggest "com." Follow me on this one:Why com? I admit, the word may bring to mind web addresses, military jargon or even sci-fi, but it makes a lot of sense here. It's simple—like "phone" which was colloquially adapted because "telephone" was two syllables too long—and it's short for both "communicator" and "computer," both of which describe the device in my pocket better than "phone" does. Sticking a "smart" in front of "phone" is no better. The prefix made sense years ago, when PDAs were slowly merging with phones, but even the free-with-activation phones of today have cameras, games, apps and organizational software better than the best phones before. As phones get smarter, all phones become smartphones. So again, why com? After all, your phone is primarily a communicator. While making voice calls will always be a major part of the device, you're already using it to communicate with everyone in many other ways. Today. Right now. Text messages took many, many years to get to the point where it was both super usable, reliable and ubiquitous, Americans now send more text messages than they make phone calls. Email's just about at that point as well, with many devices offering desktop-class email that gets beamed to you only seconds after it's sent. It's so good, many business professionals are able to live off BlackBerries alone for days. Also, instant messaging on phones with proper keyboards can often be even faster than text messaging, and more immediate than email. Then there's video calling. It may not be as prevalent in the US, but people in countries like Japan have been two-way video chatting from their handhelds for years. And none of this advanced communication would be possible if your phone weren't a miniature computer. It's true that most phones are only weak computers now compared to what you're running at home or work. They have kinda-usable keyboards, decent music and video playback, passable web browsers (on some devices), so-so picture taking and blurry video shooting, but you can bet these features are only going to get better as phones are able to run desktop-class applications. Think about the amount of power you have in your phone today. Even crappy phones are capable of more processing than your PC was 8 or 10 years ago. Just imagine where your handheld will go in another 8 to 10. "Smartphone", or "mobile device", or "PDA", or "handheld computer" just won't do. We need something different. Something not clunky. And I think com could be it. If com evokes thoughts of "comm", the Star Trek communicator (and by association the Tricorder, that ultimate do-everything handheld), that's good. We're talking about a device that doesn't just carry a conversation, but enables you to have face to face interaction, get instant text, image or video streaming updates on anything you're interested in and run the type of games that used to be only playable on living room consoles. Being able to talk to anybody while you're walking on the street was the stuff of science fiction 50 years ago and we're doing it now; there's no reason why the future features won't be just as amazing to people today. The term com is supposed to be a little forward thinking and a feel just a little bit awkward. New things often are. It's a word I think we'll have to grow into. If you've got a better name in mind, let us know in comments. But if com does take off, it could be the word we use for these handheld communicators and computers for the next fifty years. Com. My com. Your com. Our coms.