Think of a daily task, any daily task, and it's likely there's a specialized, pocket-sized device designed to help you accomplish it. You can get a separate, tiny and powerful machine to make phone calls, keep your calendar and address book, entertain you, play your music, give directions, take pictures, check your e-mail, and do countless other things. But how many pockets do you have? Handheld devices become as clunky as a room-sized supercomputer when you have to carry four of them around with you every day.
A smartphone is one device that can take care of all of your handheld computing and communication needs in a single, small package. It's not so much a distinct class of products as it is a different set of standards for cell phones to live up to. This article explores what makes a cell phone a smartphone, how the idea came about and what you can do with it.
Unlike many traditional cell phones, smartphones allow individual users to install, configure and run applications of their choosing. A smartphone offers the ability to conform the device to your particular way of doing things. Most standard cell-phone software offers only limited choices for re-configuration, forcing you to adapt to the way it's set up. On a standard phone, whether or not you like the built-in calendar application, you are stuck with it except for a few minor tweaks. If that phone were a smartphone, you could install any compatible calendar application you like.
Since cell phones and PDAs are the most common handheld devices today, a smartphone is usually either a phone with added PDA capabilities or a PDA with added phone capabilities. Here's a list of some of the things smartphones can do:
- Send and receive mobile phone calls – some smartphones are also WiFi capable
- Personal Information Management (PIM) including notes, calendar and to-do list
- Communication with laptop or desktop computers
- Data synchronization with applications like Microsoft Outlook and Apple's iCal calendar programs
- Instant messaging
- Applications such as word processing programs or video games
- Play audio and video files in some standard formats
Future applications promise to be even more impressive. For example, the Nokia 6131 is a phone utilizing near field communication (NFC) to allow the phone to act as a wireless credit card. The phone uses a two-way communication system to transfer payment information to pads at certain retail stores. Currently, it’s still in the trial phase of development.