by Jim Lynch

Does anybody still use their iPhone as a phone?

Dec 18, 2015

When does an iPhone stop being a phone and become a pocket computer? These days I hardly ever use my iPhone 6 Plus for phone calls, instead I use it for Web browsing, ebooks, audiobooks and other apps

I recently did a post about how I fell in love with the iPhone 6 Plus again. The renewal of my interest in the iPhone 6 Plus got me thinking about smartphones, and it made me wonder why we even bother to still call them phones. Devices like the iPhone are really pocket computers and phone calls have become a minor feature at best.

I keep the iOS Phone icon in a folder on my home screen

For example, I rarely use my iPhone to make phone calls. Yes, I know how weird that must sound but it’s true. For the most part I use it for Web browsing, text messages, ebooks, audiobooks and the occasional miscellaneous app. But very rarely do I hold it up to my head and talk to someone else on it.

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Audible, BaconReader, Kindle and Safari are the icons on the Dock on my iPhone. The Phone icon is buried in a folder called “Social.”

In fact, if you look at the screenshot of my home screen, you don’t even see the Phone icon on the Dock or anywhere else on the home screen. It’s actually in a folder labeled “Social” since I rarely ever use it. Instead I have Audible, BaconReader, Kindle and Safari on the Dock since those are really my most used apps on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Maybe I’m just weird when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s not like I never use my iPhone for calls. But the other things I use it for vastly outweigh any use of the iPhone for phone calls. And I mean that in a really big way, phone calls are probably one of the least used features on my iPhone 6 Plus.

It makes me think that perhaps we’ve all been lying to ourselves when we use the term “smartphones.” Maybe we should just start calling them “pocket computers” since that seems to be what most people use them for, with the occasional phone call thrown in to maintain the fig leaf fantasy that we carry them around to make phone calls.

Apps and non-phone iOS features have improved in amazing ways

I think part of the reason for this is the growth of apps and other non-phone-call features in iPhones. When the iPhone first came out, it was all about the phone calls and apps were at best a secondary consideration. But that has changed drastically since the first iPhone.

The iOS app store contains a zillion apps that do a zillion different things. There are so many apps that it’s just mind boggling to consider what is available now compared to what apps were available after the first iPhone was released.

There really is an app for just about everything on the iPhone.

And don’t even get me started about games. Games are huge in the iOS app store, and the iPhone itself has unexpectedly turned into a pocket gaming machine in a way that nobody could have imagined when it was first released. Games are some of the top sellers and most lucrative apps on the app store.

iOS itself has undergone amazing changes since it was first released. It can do far, far more than it could back in the days of the first iPhone. And all of those features and enhancements have literally turned the iPhone into a computer that fits in your pocket and that you can take with you anywhere you go.

iPhone hardware has also improved by leaps and bounds

Another thing that has driven phone calls into second or third class status for iPhones is the hardware of the device itself. The size of the iPhone has gotten much bigger, and larger screens make it easier and more comfortable to use apps, browse the web, read ebooks, etc. We can see more, so we can do more than in the first days of the iPhone.

But the processor on the iPhone has also gotten amazingly fast. The iPhone 6s has a 64-bit A9 chip with an M9 motion coprocessor that we couldn’t even have imagined when the first iPhone hit the market. And it has 2 GB of RAM too. All of this means that today’s iPhone literally is a very powerful pocket computer in a way that earlier phones never were.

Even my iPhone 6 Plus is no slouch when it comes to power or speed. It has a still very fast A8 processor with an M8 motion coprocessor. And it has 1 GB of RAM, and that’s plenty for what I use it for these days. And the 5.5-inch screen looks absolutely amazing, and gives me plenty of room to read ebooks, browse the web, write in Day One, and even watch Netflix or Amazon Prime videos.

And do I even need to bring up cameras in the iPhone? The iPhone 6s offers a 12-megapixel camera that takes Live Photos, 4K video, 1080P video at 60 FPS and gorgeous regular photos. I never even considered that we’d have such amazing cameras when the first iPhone came out. And I’m willing to bet that the iPhone is used as a camera far, far more than it’s ever used as a phone for calls.

Maybe the iPhone needs a new name?

Apple would never consider changing the name of the iPhone, of course. It’s such a powerful brand name across the entire planet. But part of me thinks that they should, given that phone functionality has really become such an also-ran feature on iPhones.

But I’m not sure what they could call it instead of iPhone. Maybe some variation on Pocket PC? Wait, Microsoft probably wouldn’t appreciate that since that was one of their earlier products ages ago. Well, I’ll leave the renaming to Apple’s marketing department, if they ever choose to go ahead with it.

Regardless of what the iPhone is called, the days of it being used mainly as a phone are long behind us and they aren’t coming back. Now it’s a pocket computer that you can take with you anywhere, and – through iCloud – it has become linked to the Mac and the iPad. You can even start doing something on your iPhone and continue it on your Mac or iPad or vice versa!

Can you imagine where the iPhone will be in another ten or twenty years?

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