A multimedia phone is a cell phone that has at least some capacity to access the Internet, take photographs, and transmit data in addition to making simple voice calls. In common parlance, the phrase “multimedia phone” is often interchanged with “smartphone.” From a technological perspective, however, there is usually some difference between a multimedia phone and a smartphone. Most of this owes to network speed, download and upload capabilities, and bandwidth usage. In many respects a multimedia phone is something of a middle-of-the-road phone: it can do more than a straight features phone, but not as much as a smartphone.
Cell phone service providers typically sell phones and attendant service plans in three categories. A straight features phone or camera phone is usually the most basic model available. This kind of phone can place and answer calls, send and receive text or SMS messages, and snap basic photos in most cases. A multimedia phone is usually the next step up. Phones in the multimedia category are usually able to surf the Internet and access a variety of multimedia content, often including the ability to store and play music.
A phone that is marketed as a “video phone” or “Internet phone” is in all likelihood a multimedia phone. Multimedia phones usually have an array of different media-oriented capabilities. Still, they are designed to be a phone above all else.
At the far end of the spectrum exist smartphones. A smartphone is a phone that acts in many respects like a computer. It can upload and download files from the Internet, and can act as a global positioning system (GPS); it can take videos and then send them on to contacts, or upload them to social networking pages. Video chatting and real-time messaging is usually possible, and apps are constantly being designed to improve phone features and enhance communication capabilities.
It could be argued that a smartphone is, in practice, the most multimedia-ready of all the phones on the market. Nevertheless, the label “multimedia” on a phone usually indicates some lesser degree of technological advancement. The crux of what makes a phone a multimedia phone is usually its operating system, which is typically very basic. Multimedia phones can get on the Internet, but usually at slower speeds; files can be accessed, but not always downloaded. Similarly, content can be viewed, but not usually rapidly shared.
Multimedia phones are good options for people who want the flexibility of mobile Internet access and some enhanced communication, but either do not have the need for — or do not wish to pay for — more advanced services. Most of the time, multimedia plans are more competitively priced than smartphone data plans. They come with less, but they accordingly also cost less.