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Mobile phones, feature phones and smartphones: the differences

Smartphones, feature phones, mobile phones. What’s the difference? You may think it’s easy to distinguish between them all, but sometimes there’s not much difference between them. Here’s our breakdown of the three.

As a rule of thumb, the best way to differentiate the three groups is to keep in mind its features and therefore, cost. If a phone just makes a phone call, sends a text message and offers very little else, it’s mobile phone. If it offers a high-megapixel camera, enables you to edit Microsoft Office documents and photos then it’s a smartphone. And anywhere in between is probably a feature phone.

To explain things further, let’s look more in detail about the differences.

Mobile phones

Nokia 100 group

These are usually the most affordable phones on the market. A great example of this is the Nokia 100. While a mobile phone doesn’t come packed with a high-end features, what it does offer is a brilliant battery life. This one has a standby time of 840 hours – well over a month – for example.

A mobile phone is principally there for the crucial jobs; to enable you to make a phone call and the odd SMS. In addition to its affordable price, one of the key reasons this model is so popular in places like Africa is its durable, dust-resistant design. 

Feature phones

Nokia Ahs 305 group

Feature phones lie in the ever-contested space between mobile phones and smartphones. They are rich in features, very clearly more advanced than a mobile phone, but not quite so advanced as a smartphone. Often they have built-in cameras sometimes with a fairly high megapixel count. They support apps, game downloads and feature a Web browser. The Nokia Asha 305, Nokia Asha 306 and Nokia Asha 311are all feature phones

These particular examples are very close to being smartphones, and by some people’s definitions, they are. For now we’ll stick with Wikipedia’s definition of a smartphone, though: “A smartphone is a mobile phone built on a mobile computing platform, with more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a feature phone.”

Of course, there’s a problem with this definition. What is “more advanced” changes every year. Ten years ago, having a calendar app would have been enough to get into the smartphone camp. Today, it’s nothing short of augmented reality browsers and HD video capabilities.

Feature phones are perfect for people who want more than just to make a phone call, but possibly don’t want to spend a lot of money on a fully-fledged smartphone. It’s a very good happy medium.


Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T white

A smartphone is, as we’ve just discussed, a phone that’s at the forefront of current technology.

Current smartphones are capable of taking high-res photos that you can edit right on the phone. You could also create Office documents, edit them and upload them to the Cloud. Smartphones also feature GPS for finding your way around the world, plus much more.

The Nokia Lumia 900 is one example of a smartphone. It’s beautifully crafted, meets most of your needs and is for all intents and purposes a mobile computer

Most people start their phone journey with a mobile phone, as it’s the perfect way to be introduced to new technology. Then, after time, their confidence – and desire – grows and it’s time to upgrade to a feature phone. From here, not everybody takes the leap to smartphone, as feature phones are capable of so much.

However, those that do progress to smartphone do so to always be connected to the things that are important to them, whether it be friends and family on social networks, or to be kept up-to-date with the latest news from around the world, or to just blast some aliens in a high-def online game.

What did you first own? A mobile phone, a feature phone or a smart phone? Let us know, by using the comments section below.

Image credit: Per Olof Forsberg