Jargon Busting No. 10 – Smartphone


This week I delivered 2 training sessions at Adelaide Digital Hub, both sessions were for people who were very new to the internet and technology. Doing these kinds of education sessions reminds me that not everyone speaks the geeky language that I do. I was chatting away about ‘smartphones’ when one of the students asked a great question. 

What makes a mobile phone a smartphone?

As is often the case the internet offers up many different definitions depending on which website you read. The definition I gave during the training session and will repeat here is a smartphone is a device that can make phone call and can access the internet and run applications.

The brick sized mobile phones used in the early days of the technology did not access the internet, to be honest they were rarely able to make phone calls.  Then mobile phones began to get smaller and smarter. Whilst there were many phones that could access the internet the cost of the data was so prohibitively expensive that most people rarely ventured online using their mobile phone. The other problem was the size and quality of the screen, they were small and basically rubbish. It wasn’t until the Blackberry and finally the iPhone that smartphones became generally affordable and actually usable. 

Smartphones not only access the internet,  they can send and receive emails and run applications that do specific tasks. The popularity was also helped by mobile phone companies making the cost of data more affordable over time. The improvements in the technology and the lowering of the cost helped make smartphones accessible to more and more people. 

survey done by Department Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy in 2012 of 3000 mobile phone owners, found 76% of respondents had a smartphone.  A different survey found as of February this year, almost half the Australian population have a smartphone. The same research found 9.2 million Australians went online via their mobile phone and 4.4 million accessed the internet using a tablet in the six months to May 2012.

So it’s easy to see that we Australians love our smartphones, and the numbers are only growing. I believe their popularity is in no small part of their ease of use. The most popular smartphones can be used with relatively little instruction by a novice and really that is what makes any piece of technology popular, it’s easy to use and it does something useful (or at least entertaining). 

image credit: “an evening playing ‘smartphone’ pub quiz with the exeter twitterati!” philcampbell, flickr.com  


Is it that urgent?

Today I flew to Brisbane, I was grateful for my iPhone to keep me entertained during the flight. But what really amazed me was the number of people who as soon as we landed reached for their phone.

What could be so urgent? Then I found myself doing it, announcing my arrival via text message to my friend who was picking me up. Why did I need to tell her? It wasn’t urgent. I spoke to her last night, we had agreed where we would meet and I knew she would be there. Yes my flight was 15 minutes late but she would know that thanks to the arrivals board in the airport.

Why has everything become so urgent? Why do we need to stay in touch all the time? Is it because we can rather than we have to?

Tonight I went to the theatre and came very close to strangling a man 3 seats down from me who turned his phone on during the show to read his email. What made it worse was it was only 10 minutes after the interval.


For the record this man was in his 60s and the over 20 teenage girls on a school trip to the theatre did not look at their phones once during the performance.

Surely if you are waiting for urgent news, a kidney transplant, a new grandchild or a signed contract from work, it can wait a few hours. The good news will be waiting for you when you check your phone.

I’m fascinated by my own need to feel connected. In an odd way I’m reassured that I’m not alone. Tonight after a wonderful theatre performance I watched and almost all of the people around me reached for their phones as soon as they could. Young and old alike, checked their phone before they had even left the theatre.

Why do we do it? Why do you do it? What is so urgent?

I would love to hear your thoughts about how quickly you reach for your phone after it has been turned off for a couple of hours.