Glossary definition of Smartphone

Smartphone is a handheld device that integrates the features of a mobile phone with those of a PDA. Such an arrangement allows the smartphone to be used independently, either as a regular phone or as a PDA, and by combining these two characteristics the smartphone then becomes a powerful tool for exchanging data, images and a variety of file formats with other compatible devices.

The key feature of a smartphone is that it has its own operating system (like a small computer), which allows the phone to run an almost limitless range of task-related software applications. These operating systems (or platforms as they are often referred to) provide the foundation on which new software can be added and run on the phone. Therefore, a smartphone has the potential to be customised by installing the programs a user needs for their personal tasks. This versatility is very appealing for those who want their phone to integrate with their work or leisure needs.

As with computers, which offer choices such as Windows, Apple Mac or Linux, there are a number of different operating systems available for use on smartphones. Also, in the same way that computer operating systems are in a constant state of development (e.g. the move from Windows 2000 to XP), several versions of smartphone operating systems may co-exist at any one time. When buying a smartphone it is important to consider whether the particular model, its operating system, and the available applications will all meet the users requirements.

With a few exceptions smartphones divide into two fairly distinct types, which indicates their evolutionary development from either PDA or mobile phone origins. The first type of smartphone looks like a PDA, and these models are quite bulky with large touch-sensitive displays; onscreen menus and navigation is typically controlled with a special stylus. This type of smartphone often has a small QWERTY keyboard included, and it may have an on-screen virtual keyboard and handwriting recognition software to make text input easier.

The second type of smartphone has the standard alphanumeric keypad and looks more like a regular clamshell or candy bar phone, although they usually need to be slightly larger to accommodate the extra hardware, and are also fitted with bigger display screens. Whatever the design, the user will normally choose the type of smartphone that best suits their sort of work or personal preference.

The operating system is usually a fixed feature for a certain model of phone. The PDA style smartphones, with a touch-screen or QWERTY keyboard, may run Symbian UIQ, Microsoft Windows Mobile for Pocket PC Phone Edition, or a Palm OS. Other Symbian variants called Series 80 and Series 90 are also to be found on Nokia phones. For smartphones with a normal phone keypad, the usual operating systems are Symbian Series 60 or Microsoft Windows Mobile for Smartphone.

Other operating systems are also used, including the increasingly popular Linux-based platform, and the important proprietary operating systems of Blackberry and Danger phones. In the future it seems likely that operating systems will have greater possibilities to be customised by developers, as is proposed for Symbian UIQ 3.0, so that they can be adapted for a wider range of phone types.

The term smartphone appears to have come into use in 2003, although similar devices had been around for some time before that date. Smartphones are often thought of as useful devices for personal information management (e.g. calendars, phone / address books, and memo notepads), but they have far wider functionality: as HTML Internet browsers, e-mail clients, games players, MP3 music players, A-GPS location-based service tools, and more. Smartphones normally have extensive multimedia features, such as an integrated camera for still pictures and video, and audio or video streaming of material such as news and entertainment.

The developers of smartphone software provide a wide range of useful applications, including similar types of programs to those used on normal PCs, such as spreadsheets, databases, and word processors. For example, specific smartphone readers / editors exist for documents in Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and PDF files. Indeed, there are smartphone applications for almost any purpose, and they may include travel guides and language translators, medical or legal tools, astrology, and far more. Applications written for a given smartphone platform will usually run on any smartphone with that platform, regardless of manufacturer.

An important consideration when choosing between smartphones and operating systems is to first check what software applications are available for that system. The range of applications available for a particular smartphone may be either very extensive or limited, and this depends on the operating system which that phone uses. A good choice of applications is available from software suppliers, and the longer established operating systems obviously have the largest choice of these programs. For instance, it is claimed that there are now more than 20,000 titles available for the Palm OS, and it is necessary to search through a list of categories in order to find a suitable application to match a users needs. The software retailer www.handango.com lists an enormous choice of third-party titles for the various smartphone platforms.

The greater functionality offered by the smartphone will put additional demands on phone memory, in order to store all the programs and data necessary. Some smartphones have a large internal memory, and they usually have a memory card slot to expand the storage capacity still further. Memory cards such as TransFlash, MMC, SD, Memory Stick Duo, etc, may be inserted to change or add extra memory, and applications and games may be stored on the cards, to help organise the users library of software. A memory card is also a convenient way to transfer large files and data to other devices via a card reader.

Smartphones, like the better mobile phones, usually come with a choice of connectivity options, and it is possible to transfer data by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, infrared, USB cable, or remotely over the network. Users may need to transfer files between a PC and the phone, to ensure that they have their work data available while out of the office, or it may be necessary to synchronise personal information, such as that in the calendar or phonebook by using applications like Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. The software for file management and connectivity is typically supplied with the phone, and it can often be downloaded from the manufacturers websites.

Unfortunately, it is now possible for smartphones to be infected by viruses, as is the case with computers, and there is a potential risk that a virus could enter the phone from an Internet connection or in a received message. The possibility of viruses being transferred by Bluetooth is another area of threat to users who freely transfer files this way. In 2004 it became clear that viruses had started to appear on smartphones, and so the need for some kind of anti-virus protection should be given more serious consideration.

Phones tagged with Smartphone