"Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? An iPad killer? Or what?" These are the questions that stood out to me in much of the online commentary about the Dell Streak, the new mobile device launched by Dell a few months ago. And many people answer such questions by describing it as a smartphone.
Thanks to my friends at Dell, I have a Dell Streak which I’ve been discovering a little this weekend.
You could technically describe the Streak as a smartphone: after all, it does have cellular connectivity, takes a SIM card (although it works perfectly fine without one), has a microphone and phone-dialling functionality, and has a huge range of features that takes it far beyond mobile phone functionality.
I don’t see it as one, though: it’s not a device I’d use as a phone. The cellular connectivity just means that you can get online (ie, data use rather than voice) when there’s isn’t wifi and there is a mobile phone network handy. That means your opportunities to be connected just about anywhere you go are good, certainly here in the UK.
But let’s look at the Wikipedia definition of a smartphone which starts like this:
A smartphone is a mobile phone that offers more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary basic ‘feature phone‘. Smartphones and feature phones may be thought of as handheld computers integrated within a mobile telephone, but while most feature phones are able to run applications based on platforms such as Java ME, a smartphone allows the user to install and run more advanced applications based on a specific platform. Smartphones run complete operating system software providing a platform for application developers.
Well, the Dell Streak ticks all the boxes in that definition. So, as far as definitions go, it’s a smartphone.
Yet such a rigid in-the-box definition doesn’t do justice to this device. You can apply that definition to an HTC Desire, for instance, which is the primary phone I have. That’s unquestionably a phone, due to its size, portrait-orientation emphasis and focus on phone functionality, and also offers loads of other functionality, ie, what you can do with mobile apps.
I see the Dell Streak more as a "mobile web computer" (is that coining a phrase?) that has landscape-orientation emphasis and also offers you phone functionality if you need to make or receive a call.
Is it a tablet as some ask? Well, it’s bigger than any smartphone I’ve seen, so that qualifies it for that label in my book. But it’s not as big as an iPad, which is unquestionably a tablet (although Wikipedia’s definition of a tablet focuses more on device functionality than size).
I’ll have more commentary posted as I get to know the Dell Streak.
So what is the Dell Streak? Well, as I said, it’s a mobile web computer. Confused? Don’t be – maybe it’s whatever you want it to be.
However you describe it, it’s more than the sum of its parts.