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As powerful and pervasive as smartphones like the Google Droid Nexus One and the iPhone seem to be, believe it or not, Americans overall still prefer their predecessor feature phones. While the popularity of smartphones is definitely on the rise, more U.S. users still have feature phones in their hands than smartphones. Some examples of popular feature phones include the Sony Ericsson Elm, the Verizon LG Cosmos, Accolade and enV Touch and the Samsung Monte.

With all the hype and accolades circulating for smartphones, how can this be? How is it that people are still choosing the previous generation of phones instead of the loaded, cutting-edge smartphones?

The reasons for this seem to boil down to cost and simplicity. At this time, feature phones are still cheaper than smartphones, sometimes significantly so. Although the smartphones do, indeed, come loaded with features as well as the capacity for even more features, this can be intimidating to mobile phone users. Less tech-savvy Americans tend to shy away from the feature-rich, state-of-the-art smartphones. Many of them have been using their feature phone for years and enjoy the comfort zone they are in with their current style of phone.

Smartphones vs. Feature Phones: The Differences

The differences between smartphones and feature phones are both external and internal. In terms of design, smartphones employ a touch screen that speeds up browsing for both the phone’s features and the Internet. Instead of a touch screen, feature phones employ a mouse-like scrolling device for browsing the phone’s screen and Internet.

Smartphones tend to have a third-party operating system and are known for running third-party software known as apps, whereas feature phones usually have a limited proprietary operating system, and few support third-party software. If they do, they’re usually run on BREW or Java and are often standalone items that do not really integrate with the other features of the phone. Email, calendar syncing and even document editing are features that come included with the smartphone’s standard data plan, while in many cases with feature phones they’ll need to be purchased separately.

However, many users feel that feature phones make up for these shortcomings with a talent for multimedia and texting. Almost all feature phones have full HTML browsers, GPS and offer 3G speeds. Many feature phones also include almost effortless social networking abilities and integration, including Facebook and Twitter, which is popular with many users.

Marketing to the Feature Phone Audience

For feature phone users, the phone is a good compromise between the ordinary, no-frills cell phone and the smartphone. While third-party software and free or 99 cent apps are not on the radar screen of the feature phone user, the features that are available to them are chosen with care and consideration. They appreciate the streamlined nature of their phone and do not take lightly the features they do have access to.

While smartphone marketers seem to focus more on the consumer market and feature phones target the business world, many users still mix their business and personal lives, using feature phones for personal use. They have grown comfortable with the feature phone platform, so they use it at home as well. Smartphones are definitely starting to infiltrate the corporate world and government agencies, but clearly, the demand and interest for the feature phone is not going away.

The lower costs of feature phones, as well as the lower monthly bill that comes with them, are definitely selling points for the feature phone at this time. While smartphone costs are sure to drop as time goes by, there is no evidence the feature phone is on its way out anytime soon.


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