Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Smart is a Smartphone?

The latest technology buzzword in mobile communications is the 'smartphone'. The days of a phone just making phone calls (and, if you were really lucky, take awful photos) are well and truly over. A demanding, tech-savvy public wants a phone that will provide them with a range of functions, including Internet access, the ability to send and receive emails and even to edit Word documents. The smartphone does all this - and more.
To really understand how important a development smartphones are, we first have to look at its heritage. The smartphone is a convergence of the traditional mobile or cell phone and personal digital assistants (PDAs) such as the Palm Pilot. Whereas a mobile phone was designed purely to make and receive calls, PDAs were used as portable, personal organisers. A PDA could store your contact information and a 'to do' list and link with your main PC. As technology moved on, PDAs developed the ability to receive and send emails. Mobile phones, in the meantime, gained a plethora of additional features such as messaging capabilities. The two technologies ran alongside for a while, each developing the same capabilities as the other, including wireless capability. Finally, someone had the bright idea of combining the two into one, portable package. The smartphone was born.
The key features of a smartphone all depend on the make or model you decide to purchase, but the bare minimum requirements to look for or consider when buying a smartphone are:

The Operating System
Generally, a smartphone will be based on an operating system that allows it to run productivity applications. For instance, the Blackberry runs its own operating system, while others run on Windows mobile. There are smartphones that run a scaled down version of Linux, but these are finding it a struggle to compete against the all-conquering Windows or Apple 'Aps' systems. If you're looking for a smartphone, consider what operating systems your other technology is running if you want to successfully interface your smartphone with your laptop, for example.

While almost all mobile phones include some sort of software, smartphones have taken it to a whole new level. A good smartphone will give you the ability to create and edit Microsoft Office documents, download applications such as personal finance managers, edit photos, access a GPS navigation system and create a playlist of digital tunes. The explosion of 'aps' (applications) for the most modern, touch screen phones are pushing software to the limit, with downloadable software applications available for almost anything you can name.

Web access
With a tech-smart public demanding 24/7 access to the Internet, no self-respecting smartphone would deny you web access. The most modern smartphones can access the Web at higher speeds, thanks to the development of 3G data networks and the addition of Wi-Fi support.

Qwerty keyboard
If you're going to be sending emails from your phone, you really need a qwerty keyboard facility. These can be part of the hardware (like your computer keyboard but in miniature) or as on the new touch screen phones, part of the display screen.

All mobile phones can send and receive text messages, but smartphones can go one better and receive email. Others can also include access to popular instant messaging sites such as MSN or Yahoo! Messenger.
It's not just the technology that makes a smartphone smart. It's the application of that technology into producing a mobile phone that does far more than just send and receive phone calls or take dreadful photos. The smartphone has been the death-knell of the palm pilot - why have two pieces of technology when you can combine it all into one, lightweight, easy to operate mobile consul?
Just don't ever drop it onto a hard surface...