Differences Between a Smartphone and a Non-Smartphone

By Brian Flax

Smartphones like the iPhone are designed for multimedia use.
i Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Over the last few years smartphones have become more like handheld computers than phones. Non-smartphones (or dumb phones) on the other hand, function more like a phone and less like a computer. Smartphones generally allow you to browse the Web, download applications, send email and communicate through voice and video. Dumb phones usually allow you to place phone calls, send text messages and browse basic websites.

A Display Meant for Media

One of the main differences between a smartphone and a dumb phone is the size of the display. Most smartphones have a touch display meant for viewing video, browsing the Web and communicating through video chat and instant messaging. The bigger display also allows you to download and use applications more efficiently. Dumb phone displays are generally smaller and are not touch-sensitive. They're designed for placing phone calls and sending short text messages. Smartphones can have high-definition screens capable of displaying HD content and streaming video from a variety of sources.

Download Some Files

Most smartphones come with built-in storage for downloading applications, files and operating system updates. The amount of built-in storage depends on the model, while some allow you to add memory cards to increase storage space. Smartphones like the iPhone and Android devices are designed to handle a variety of media formats like music, video and pictures. Dumb phones usually have limited internal storage, enough for storing a certain number of text messages and contacts. Although some may allow you to add removable storage, your media options are generally limited.

Type Away

Most dumb phones have a basic keyboard with a number pad and letters assigned to corresponding keys for composing text messages. Smartphones have full QWERTY keyboards in either a hardware form or built in to the operating system that allow you to easily type text message and emails on a full keyboard. Newer smartphones may even have voice control with the option of composing text messages or controlling apps completely by voice. You may find some non-smartphones with full keyboards that are mainly meant for heavy text message users.

Browse the Internet

Most smartphones have Web browsers that let you browse mobile websites and websites designed for desktop computers. Depending on your wireless carrier, you could be on a high-speed data network like 4G LTE or 3G, with comparable speeds to your home Internet connection. Dumb phones usually have limited Internet connectivity and allow you to browse websites design for mobile phones at slow speeds. Some dumb phones don't have an Internet connection at all and will only allow you to place phone calls or send text messages. Most smartphones require a data plan from your carrier to work correctly, while dumb phones may only require a voice and text message plan.