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
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, its still in the trial phase of development.
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