Phonotype: a New Taxonomy for mHealth Research

  • Bruce L. RollmanEmail author
  • David A. Brent

Our phones and computers have become reflections of our personalities, our interests, and our identities. They hold much that is important to us.1

James B. Comey, Former FBI Director

Genotype and phenotype are established terms used to describe the set of genes that are unique to a person’s genetic makeup, and the observable characteristics resulting from the interaction of that genotype with the environment, respectively. Adding to this taxonomy, we propose a new term, “phonotype,” to describe how information collected by an individual’s smartphone can be utilized to understand their behavior and promote health.

While similar phrases including reality mining, digital phenotyping, and personal informatics have also been used to describe research involving smartphone-collected data,2we advocate for the term “phonotype” instead given its (1) clear connotation to smartphones; (2) “-type” suffix consistency with genotype and phenotype; and (3) single-word simplicity. Moreover, the term...



We thank David C. Mohr for his helpful feedback on a draft of this paper.

Funding Information

This work is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (P50MH115838).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The opinions and content expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of our funding organization.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Center for Behavioral Health and Smart TechnologyUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA

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