The Feature Phone is Dead! Long Live the Feature Phone!

Category: Mobile

Most of my friends have an iPhone or an Android smartphone. I'll admit to some level of 'Angry Birds Envy' but I really don't do much with my phone except for calling and text messages. Email would be nice, and sometimes I could use a GPS, but is it really worth it?

Do You Really Need a Smartphone?

Smartphones are inexorably taking over the mobile phone market. Fifty-five per cent of mobile phones purchased in the U.S. during the second quarter of 2011 were smartphones, according to Nielsen's latest consumer survey, compared to 38 per cent a year ago. The market research company predicts that smartphones will outnumber feature phones by the end of 2011. Yet some people still question whether they really need a smartphone.

There are two alternatives to smartphones. The basic cell phone does voice and text messaging, and not much else. The feature phone category, which covers everything between the "basic" and "smart" phones, is more complicated. Feature phones tend to be cheaper than smartphones, although that is changing as smartphone makers try to expand into the budget market.

There's a lot of overlap between the capabilities of feature phones and smart phones these days. Let's take a look at how they differ, and how to get some of those "smart" options on your feature phone.
Smart Feature Phones

Feature phones typically include cameras for still pictures and video, although these are usually of a lower quality than those found on smartphones. It's not uncommon for a smartphone to have an 8 or 10 megapixel camera, whereas feature phones more often sport 3.2 or 5 megapixel cams.

Apps and Internet Access on Feature Phones

Feature phones have smaller screens, but they do allow you access to the Web, email, and other Internet services via your 3G cellular signal. Expect to pay a bit more each month to use the "mobile web" feature on your feature phone. In the US market, there are no feature phones that include WiFi or 4G capability. So if you want a really fast mobile internet connection, you're stuck paying an extra $30 per month (or more) for a smartphone data plan.

Social networking is possible through feature phones even without a data plan. Facebook has a built-in feature called Mobile Texts that you can activate on your account's settings page. You can upload multimedia content to your Facebook Wall via MMS messaging. Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks have similar messaging-based features.

You can run apps on a feature phone, too. has a library of several thousand apps that run under the Java ME mobile platform, which virtually all phones support. is similar, but it relies on Web-based services so you don't have to download apps to your phone. Of course, you will need an Internet connection to use Snaptu. One of the most popular Snaptu apps, Facebook for Feature Phones, will run on over 2000 mobile phone models.

GPS navigation is standard on most smartphones, and it's free. On feature phones, you can still get maps and turn-by-turn navigation, but you'll pay either a one-time fee, a weekly fee or a monthly fee. Verizon's VZ Navigator costs $2.99 per day, $4.99 per week or $9.99 per month. And you don't even need a GPS chip in your phone to use this feature, because phones can use cellular towers to detect your location.

No, you don't really need a smartphone, especially if all you really want to do is make calls and swap text messages. Today's feature phones offer web, email, music, games, maps, and can do most of the things that smartphones do, with a bit of compromise. But if you depend on your mobile phone for business, or internet access is important to you, a smartphone is probably your best bet, because they have larger screens for email and web browsing. You'll also want wifi, because internet access via a cellular signal can be painfully slow.

What's your opinion on feature phone versus smartphone? Post your comment or question below...

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 27 Jul 2011

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
What Is The Ultimate Gaming PC?

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Five Reasons NOT To Buy a Digital SLR Camera

Most recent comments on "The Feature Phone is Dead! Long Live the Feature Phone!"

Posted by:

Lee McIntyre
27 Jul 2011

I like being able to sync my Outlook contacts and Outlook calendar with my Blackberry smart phone. That way, I always know where I'm supposed to be, and I have the phone number of the person I'm supposed to be with, to tell them why I'm not there yet. :-)

Plus, I keep detailed records of business interactions in my Outlook contacts "notes" field for each contact, and I always have those with me, too.

I'm not sure if you can sync Outlook with a feature phone.

Posted by:

27 Jul 2011

I'm about ready to 'upgrade' my cell phone. Right now, I have a Samsung Flight, which is a 'feature phone'. It is so old, relatively speaking, that it is no longer being sold. Do I like it, not particularly. What I mostly do is Talk, a little Texting, get Weather Alerts & play a couple of Games, once in awhile. I am not a cell phone addict. }:O)

However, I am looking at the Motorola Atrix 4G, from AT&T. Why? Mainly because of the screen size, 4 inches. I honestly, need a larger screen size, just to see what I am trying to do, with my phone. Plus, the Atrix has 9 hours of Talk Time!
My Flight has only 3 hours or so, of Talk Time.

Yes, I am aware that Talk Time is highly affected by using the phone for other things, like connecting with Facebook, taking & uploading pictures, use of the Internet & all of the Apps, that you install. Since, I don't do a lot of those things, that means that I should have a lot more Talk Time available.

I also, like the look & feel of the Motorola Atrix 4G. Plus, it also has all of the features I want, should I need them. If, I want to take a picture, I can or if, I want to connect to the Internet, I can.

Right now, the price is right. I can get an Atrix for $49, that is refurbished. In all honesty, I will only get a 90 day warranty, since it is refurbished. I really don't care, since, my phones tend to last a really long time.

The only thing, I really worry about, is when hackers will be 'attacking smartphones' with malware & viruses???!!! I know, it is going to happen, just don't know when. Hopefully, the cell phone companies & App makers, will have some protection available, by then.

Posted by:

27 Jul 2011

Thank You for an insightful set of remarks. There is a rush to associate not having an Iphone with being technically retarded. Obviously, Bob Rankin, you are not technically retarded. In terms of cell phone use, I am rather like you. I have no need for an Iphone. And since I do not have to be connected 24/7, I do not want a device that imposes that reality upon me. I spend enough time as it is with my three(3)computers. My cell phone, then, turns out to be a pleasant escape from the demands of the computer.

Posted by:

27 Jul 2011

I'm currently using a Verizon Accolade 'feature phone' and plan to upgrade to a 'smart phone' next February when my 'new every two' comes around. I have been leaning toward an Android system phone but just read that Apple has successfully sued HTC and is now planning to go after Samsung, two of the major Android players on Verizon. Will suing Google be far down the road?

I've never been too keen on Apple products as I prefer choice to being captive so it will be interesting to see how the next few months play out.

Posted by:

Homer Johanssen
28 Jul 2011

I'm still using my 8 year old Nokia cell phone. It works great. I don't need to be 'in touch' with the rest of the world continuously. I don't need to know my bank balance 24 hours a day. I don't need GPS-I know how to use maps-if I get lost I ask someone directions...yes, actually talking face to face with someone. I don't need to tell the world what I had for lunch or how many pounds I lost last week. Remember when only doctors carried beepers (pre cellphone)? It was symbol of importance. Same with smart phones---all the nobodies in the world are now big shots because they are "connected". This is a disease which is actually destroying society, not making it better.

Posted by:

Dr. Keshav Sharma
28 Jul 2011

Good advice Bob. I have been using basic phones and feature phones for the last many years. And I find that these are adequate to fulfil my communication needs. For internet, GPS etc. I use laptop or other devices which are more efficient. My experience has shown that only a few need a smartphone. Well, if one wants to show off, then a smartphone is O.K. But as Bob has said, lower end phones are adequate for most users.

Posted by:

28 Jul 2011

My "Feature" Phone does everything I need and I only have to charge the battery once a week and not twice a day like so called smart phones , What is the use of a portable phone if you cant be further than 5 feet from a power outlet

Posted by:

David Ziegler
28 Jul 2011

When feature phones and smart phones have apps or features I really need, I may get one. Until then, my basic cell phone lets me make and receive calls reliably, and that's enough.

Posted by:

28 Jul 2011

A very useful article Bob.
I used to have a smartphone but gave it to my daughter when she mangled hers. I now use a Nokia 1616 which I bought for very little.
Ah, the joy of only having to charge it once a week!
I would recommend that any smartphone owners keep one of these as a spare in case their smartphone breaks or (eventually) gets stuffed by a virus.
They probably all own Ipads anyway so can do all the web connection jobs on that.

Posted by:

28 Jul 2011

I am one of those not interested in a smartphone. I don't need or want to play games or movies on a small screen. I want to be able to talk, or text and just have a reliable signal. I miss the old samsung phones we started out with an lcd screen. what I liked is that no matter the time of day, I could read the screen, and the backlight at night made it easy to read, or use it for a flashlight. now days with the beautiful color screens, they wash out so bad in daylight to make them useless. The camera can be fun, but again, only inside, or outside if your in the shade. I do like a keyboard for texting, and that's one feature I would add no matter what. My phone has replaced my alarm clock and watch, but I'm not interested in it doing much more. Call me a dinosaur, but for me, KISS... It may not be 'cool', but I think there are a lot of us that would be signing up for old style given the opportunity. less cost, less hassle, just a work horse to keep in touch.

Posted by:

14 Dec 2011

In my opinion, smart phones are a little overrated. I have a Nokia 6010 phone that I bought in 2001. It still works on the AT&T network and it makes calls and sends and receives text messages. However, I have a sneaky feeling that AT&T will try and cut my service, so I will upgrade to a "smartphone".

Therefore, I have done some research on feature phones and found that Nokia has unlocked feature phones with wifi. The price is also not too expensive, around $104.00 and up on some sites. So, this is an option for those not wanting to go the smartphone route.

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy     RSS/XML

Article information: AskBobRankin -- The Feature Phone is Dead! Long Live the Feature Phone! (Posted: 27 Jul 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved