A Word on Smartphones

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Image by Sancho85 at en.wikipedia

The tech environment has really produced some gems in the past few years, and those of us who revel in the advances made in the realm of personal computing (and the computing world in general) have had a lot to get excited about. The power and design of processing units has increased machine capability considerably, allowing pocket sized devices to perform operations on data sets the likes of which an entire desktop of yesteryear would have been required to perform.

The concept of mobile computing has moved from expensive and often underperforming laptop PCs to digitally convergent devices that combine camera, phone, PDA, multimedia platform and Internet access point into one highly portable unit that has truly earned its title of being “smart”. It should be admitted, though, that smartphone cameras won’t compare (just yet) to the functionality of your Nikon CoolPix camera.

An exact definition of what constitutes a smartphone hasn’t been agreed upon as yet, but there are definitely a few parameters that can be used to set a base on which a final characterisation can be built. A complication to any definition has been added by the fact that tablet PCs have been conflated with cell phones, blurring the line between clear categorisations.

With this said, a good place to start is to simply state that a smartphone is a cellular phone with a mobile operating system that has much better third party application management system than a feature phone does. This is to say that third party software development firms can design complex and powerful applications that will run on the smartphone’s OS with a high degree of efficiency. Feature phones, in comparison, run operating systems that resist the installation and use of third party software.

Smartphones are, therefore, closer to the capabilities of your home and work PC than a feature phone would be. With this said, however, it should be noted that many current feature phones have better applications, connectivity and more computing power than slightly older smartphones have. The key difference really comes down to the operating system’s compatibility with third party software.

Typical features that are available on contemporary smartphones include all the functions associated with a personal digital assistant (PDA), mobile/portable multimedia players, low-end digital still and video cameras, GPS, high resolution touch screens (sometimes combined with physical qwerty keyboards, web browsers and other Internet services, wireless network (Wi-Fi) connectivity and broadband connectivity.

The operating systems that major smartphone brands have developed (or simply use) are as follows: Samsung uses the Google developed Android OS; Apple uses its own iOS; Nokia uses the Symbian OS; BlackBerry uses RIM’s BlackBerry OS; the Windows Phone uses the Microsoft OS; and Hewlett-Packard uses webOS. There are also Linux smartphone operating systems (for example, Maemo and MeeGo) that can be installed on several smartphones (both across model ranges and brand names).

An added advantage of using a smartphone OS is that the OS can receive several upgrades in a phone’s lifetime, thus extending the functionality of the phone over time. Migrating over to smartphone technology from an older feature phone will feel like putting up an Yzerfontein property for sale and moving into a cosmopolitan and sophisticated city flat. You’ll wonder how you ever got by without its advantages.

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