Active Image

Unfortunately smart-phones don’t bestow some increased IQ upon the user.  Something I was profoundly disappointed in when I realised it.  In fact there is no industry standard to define what is and what isn’t a smart-phone.  For some, it’s a phone that runs complete operating system software providing a standardized interface and platform for application developers.  For others, a smart-phone is simply a phone with advanced features like e-mail, and access to the Internet.

Even the definition of what a smart-phone is has changed over time.  According to David Wood, EVP at Symbian Ltd., “Smart phones differ from ordinary mobile phones in two fundamental ways: how they are built and what they can do.”

Other definitions put different stresses on these two factors.

“With smart phones it’s just one evolution in a series of evolutions, so it might be that the actual device at some point … will become even smaller and we will not call it a phone anymore, but it will be integrated … the deal here is to make the device as invisible as possible, between you, and what you want to do,” says Sacha Wunsch-Vincent at the OECD.

The growth in demand for advanced mobile devices boasting powerful processors, abundant memory, large screens and open operating systems has outpaced the rest of the mobile phone market for several years.

Most devices that are considered to be smart-phones today use an identifiable operating system. In terms of features, most smart-phones support full featured email capabilities with the functionality of a complete personal organizer with a contact list able to store as many contacts as the available memory permits, in contrast to regular phones which tend to limit the maximum number of contacts that can be stored.

But there’s lots of other things that a smart-phone might be able to do.  Some come with a miniature QWERTY or QWERTZ keyboard, a touch screen or a D-pad for input.  Then you could opt for a built-in camera, contact management capability, an accelerometer, built-in navigation hardware and software, the ability to read business documents, media software for playing music, browsing photos and viewing video clips, internet browsers or even just secure access to company mail, such as is provided by a BlackBerry.

The first smart-phone was arguably designed by IBM in 1992, they called it Simon.  It was released to the public in 1993 and sold by BellSouth. Besides being a mobile phone, it also contained a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail, fax capability, and games. It had no physical buttons for dialling, instead customers used a touch-screen to select phone numbers with a finger or create facsimiles and memos with an optional stylus. Text was entered with a unique on-screen “predictive” keyboard. By today’s standards, the Simon would be a fairly low-end product, however its feature set at the time was incredibly advanced.

Nokia got in on the act with the Nokia Communicator line, starting with the Nokia 9000, released in 1996. This distinctive palmtop computer style smart-phone was the result of a collaborative effort of an early successful and expensive PDA model by Hewlett Packard combined with Nokia’s bestselling phone around that time and early prototype models had the two devices fixed via a hinge; the Nokia 9210 as the first color screen Communicator model which was the first true smart-phone with an open operating system; the 9500 Communicator that was also Nokia’s first cameraphone Communicator and Nokia’s first WiFi phone; the 9300 Communicator was the third dimensional shift into a smaller form factor; and the latest E90 Communicator includes GPS. The Nokia Communicator model is remarkable also having been the most expensive phone model sold by a major brand for almost the full lifespan of the model series, easily 20% and sometimes 40% more expensive than the next most expensive smart-phone by any major manufacturer.  Although the Nokia 9210 was arguably the first true smart-phone with an open operating system, Nokia continued to refer to it as a Communicator.

In October, 2001 Handspring unveiled the Palm OS Treo smart-phone, utilizing a full keyboard that combined wireless web browsing, email, calendar and contact organizer, with mobile third-party applications that could be downloaded or synced with a computer.

In 2002 RIM released the first BlackBerry which was the first smart-phone optimized for wireless email use and has achieved a total customer base of 8 million subscribers by June 2007, of which three quarters are in North America.

Although the Nokia 7650, announced in 2001, was referred to as a ‘smart phone’ in the media, and is now called a ‘smart-phone’ on the Nokia support site, the press release referred to it as an ‘imaging phone’.  Handspring delivered the first widely popular smart-phone devices in the US market by marrying its Palm OS based Visor PDA together with a piggybacked GSM phone module, the VisorPhone. By 2002, Handspring was marketing an integrated smart-phone called the Treo; the company subsequently merged with Palm primarily because the PDA market was dying but the Treo smart-phone was quickly becoming popular as a phone with extended PDA organizer features. That same year, Microsoft announced its Windows CE Pocket PC OS would be offered as “Microsoft Windows Powered Smart-phone 2002”.  Microsoft originally defined its Windows Smart-phone products as lacking a touchscreen and offering a lower screen resolution compared to its sibling Pocket PC devices. Palm has since largely abandoned its own Palm OS in favor of licensing Microsoft’s WinCE-based operating system now referred to as Windows Mobile.

In 2005 Nokia launched its N-Series of 3G smart-phones which Nokia started to market not as mobile phones but as multimedia computers.

The Smart-phone Summit semi-annual conference details smart-phone industry market data, trends, and updates among smart-phone related hardware, software, and accessories.

Android, a cross platform OS for smart-phones was released in 2008. Android is an Open Source platform backed by Google, along with major hardware and software developers (such as Intel, HTC, ARM, Motorola and eBay, to name a few), that form the Open Handset Alliance[16].

The first phone to use the Android OS was the HTC Dream, branded for distribution by T-Mobile as the G1. The phone features a full, capacitive touch screen, a flip out QWERTY keyboard, and a track ball for navigating web pages. The software suite included on the phone consists of integration with Google’s proprietary applications, such as Maps, Calendar, and Gmail, as well as Google’s Chrome Lite full HTML web browser. Third party apps are available via the Android Market, including both free and paid apps.

In July 2008 Apple introduced its App Store with both for fee and free applications. The app store can deliver smart-phone applications developed by third parties directly to the iPhone or iPod Touch over wifi or cellular network without using a PC to download. The App Store has been a huge success for Apple and by June 2009 hosted more than 50,000 applications.[20] The app store hit one billion application downloads on April 23, 2009.

Following the popularity of Apple’s App Store, many other mobile platforms are following Apple with their own application stores. Palm, Microsoft and Nokia have all announced they will launch Apple-like app stores. RIM recently launched its app store, BlackBerry App World.

Operating systems that can be found on smart-phones include Symbian OS, iPhone OS, RIM’s BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Linux, Palm WebOS and Android. Android and WebOS are in turn built on top of Linux, and the iPhone OS is derived from the BSD and NeXTSTEP operating systems, which all are related to Unix.

So, is a smart-phone a miniature computer that has phone capability or a large phone that has computing capability? It is a mobile device offering advanced capabilities, often with PC-like functionality, but one thing is certain, what we call a smart-phone now, will be considered a dumb phone in the future.

Source: Wiki
Sponsored by Technology Made Easy.