What should we call the "phone"?

written on Wednesday, February 6, 2013

These devices that we are now carrying around have ceased to be phones. Calling them phones is becoming anachronistic. An increasing amount of us don't really use them for making voice calls. SMS messages are now only one of the options that we use for sending people an instant message. Text conversations carry over from laptop to desktop to phone.

In the UK there is a business called The Carphone Warehouse which now sells personal computing devices. They have no carphones for sale at all. As a programmer this seems like a horribly misnamed constant. I would hate this to happen to our phones as well. Let us not be the lexical victims of history.

I think the primary contender is probably "mobile". It is already in use and will most likely win. It is quite descriptive and a good fit for networked computing devices that fit into a pocket. However I have always liked "cell".

I like cell, coming from the abbreviation of cellular phone. Sure most devices aren't restricted to the 8 cell antennas anymore but the word is nice. And cell implies communication. It says that each device is a smaller part of a greater whole. It doesn't have as much generic meaning as "mobile". Seeing as most computing devices are pretty mobile. A cell is something that is small. Not just something that can be lugged around.

But anything is better than continuing to call them "phones". Or, dear god, starting to call them "comms devices."

Update: Smartphone still contains the word phone and sounds infantile. To me it is the equivalent of calling a desktop computer a smart-space-heater.

This entry was tagged communication and taxonomy