Just What Exactly Makes Something ‘Smart’?

David Pogue
January 16, 2014


Smartphones, smart watches, smart cars and smart homes. 

What makes a device “smart”?



Dear M:

“Smart” is kind of a dumb term, isn’t it?

Because there’s no standard meaning for it. 

In watches, TVs and homes, “smart” means “connected to the Internet” or “connected to your phone.” In phones, it means “has a touchscreen and runs apps.” 

Of course, before the iPhone and Android phones came along, “smartphone” referred to a phone that could send email. Like a BlackBerry. Remember those? Which is why I prefer the more descriptive term “app phone.”

There’s no such thing as a smart car (yet), except for a  brand of cars called Smart — little two-seaters that look like this:

What a great question. Here’s hoping we can come up with smarter terms for these things!


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