What is a Smartphone?
The word “Smartphone” is a newly minted term thatâ€™s used to describe a Telephone-capable device that also provides information and data organization capabilities. They are similar in size, shape, and usage to [tag]Cellular Phones[/tag], but feature more extensive data organization software and web abilities. Smartphones are equipped with complete operating systems that determine what kinds of functions and applications are available for that device. They provide a convenient way to carry several hand-held digital devices in one body. They provide the data and contact organization of a [tag]PDA[/tag], connectivity of a cellular phone, along with advanced multimedia like access to [tag]email[/tag] and can in most cases support web browsing.
What Can a Smartphone Do?
Unlike traditional cell phones that restrict a user to the applications and features that are originally designed for and then fixed into the phone, Smartphones allow for significant user-customization. These full-fledged [tag]operating systems[/tag] (of which there are several options to choose from) allow a user to customize, install, and configure applications to suit their individual needs. Along with the prerequisite phone capability, Smartphones typically perform all sorts of important and useful tasks.
Personal Information Management
PIM is a whole category of software functions that organize personal information. A typical PIM suite includes a scheduler for events, and address book for contacts, and to-do list. PIM can also include email, text notes, voice notes, and alarms / reminders. Calendar functions like [tag]Outlook[/tag] or [tag]Apple[/tag] Inc.â€™s [tag]iCal[/tag] are typical of these programs.
Syncing with Desktop and Laptop PCs
Many Smartphones are designed to communicate with full-fledged PCs. Aside from just being cool, this feature allows users to easily install, remove, change and configure the software that they choose to equip their Smartphone with. It also allows further synchronization with PIM software both on your phone and on your PC.
[tag]Instant Messaging[/tag] (IM)
Not every phone that provides IM capability is a smart phone. But almost every Smartphone has a keyboard that at least allows access to every letter of the alphabet for sending [tag/Text messages[/tag]. Some Smartphones have a key for every letter; others designate several letters per key. Word recognition software and other â€œsmartâ€ features further improve the speed and accuracy of Text messaging on these kinds of phones.
While there are plenty of non-Smartphones that provide internet and email access, this option is more complete (and configurable) on Smartphone devices. You can sync email with your PIM software both on your phone and on your PC, send, read, and organize email, all from your phone. In most cases, you wonâ€™t even need to be near a wireless hotspot, either.
All Smartphones allow for some form of Internet access. Wireless Network Protocols, or the technique in which web information is sent and received over cellular networks, are grouped into different generations. Most Smartphones operating in the United States use Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE) or Generation 3 (3G) protocols.
What Makes A Smartphone Smart?
Smartphones are capable of so many features normally reserved for the realms of PCs and powerful PDA devices because they are almost PCs and PDAs themselves. There are typically two schools of thought used when designing a Smartphone: Create a PDA with Telephone capabilities, or a Telephone with PDA capabilities. No matter what design elements went into a Smartphoneâ€™s developmental stages, there are still two things that set these mobile wonders apart from their regular cellphone cousins.
Don’t like to read? Check out TigerTV Host Arno’s Introduction to Smartphones.
A Smartphone differs from a regular phone in that it has a processor running inside it, much like a computer does. These processors are currently nowhere near the power of PCs, but with the advent and subsequent redesign of Ultra Portable PCs (sometimes called Micro PCs), weâ€™re sure to see great leaps in Smarphone speeds in the future. Current smartphones commonly use ARM Processors, a power-efficient design used in other devices like routers, printers, and advanced MP3 players. A Smartphoneâ€™s processor is aided by computer chips that help perform certain tasks. A Smartphone equipped with a Digital Camera has an Image Processing Sensor inside it, much like a regular digital camera. Features like Playing Digital Music, complex web browsing, and other such â€œsmartâ€ functions are all made possible by these computer chips.
If Smartphones have Operating Systems (OS), then it stands to reason that they also have software applications, as well. Applications that are written for a specific smartphone platform (Platform is a fancy reference to the OS) can run on a Smartphone with that particular platform, regardless of what manufacturer produces the phone. Smartphone applications consist of the following parts (Often referred to as a â€œSoftware Stackâ€).
Â· Kernelâ€”The kernel manages system processes and hardware drivers required by the application in question.
Â· Middlewareâ€”Middleware consists of Software libraries. These libraries contain applications that perform specific functions, like Security Programs, Web Browsing, Instant Messaging, etc.
Â· Application Execution Environmentâ€”AEE is a programming interface. This type of software allows developers to write (and run) their own applications for use on Smartphone Platforms.
Â· User Interface Frameworkâ€”This is basically what you see on a Smartphoneâ€™s LCD screen. The graphics, controls, and layouts presented by the User Interface Framework determine how you control the various features of your Smartphone.
Operating System (OS)
The most important software on a Smartphone is the Operating System. This is because nothing will work without it! A Smartphone operating system manages the hardware and software on the device. Some OS cover the entire â€œSoftware Stackâ€ while others only provide the lower levels like the Kernel and Middleware. These OS versions rely on third party software platforms to provide User Interface Frameworks.
Smartphone Operating Systems
There are several different Operating Systems available. Some are designed for manufacturer-specific Smartphones, others are open and can be used on any Smartphone that meets the minimum requirements. Here is a brief introduction to the OS options you have for your new Smartphoneâ€”whichever one that might be.
Symbian OS is used in over 100 different makes and models of Smartphone. This Operating System contains only the Kernel and Middleware parts of itâ€™s software stack. This means that users of the Symbian OS will rely other software platforms for the AEE and User Interface Frameworks. This allows significant customization by both Wireless retailers and consumers.
Thereâ€™s something special about Linux. It is developed and written by the developer community rather than by a single company. This allows for maximum creativity and innovation for developers and those software-savvy consumers, but has one major drawback: it means that software, updates, and other applications written for Linux operating systems differ greatly from each other. This reduces compatibility, and thus originally caused developers to avoid Linux. Thatâ€™s now changing, but many Smartphone manufacturers prefer to stick with more universally accepted OS software.
This is one of the few Smartphone OS that envelops the entire Software Stack. Much of the strengths of Windows mobile lie in its completeness and full compatibility with other Windows based systems.
There are a few Smartphones that use the SavaJe operating system. This OS is based on the Java programming language, which allows for manufacturers and Consumers alike to customize every aspect of their phone as they see fit. The SavaJe OS is another â€œcompleteâ€ mobile operating system, meaning that it contains the complete Software Stack from Kernel to application suite and user interface framework.
The Garnet OS was originally called the Palm OS, because it was developed by the manufacturers of the popular Palm PDA devices. The Palm Treo line of Smartphones used the Palm OS, and have subsequently now moved to the Garnet OS. While the Garnet OS was Linux based, it varies significantly from open Linux programming.