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What Is a Smartphone
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Emergence of the Smartphone

As mobile phones and PDAs evolved, it became obvious that the connectivity of mobile phones, and the programmability and extensibility of PDAs could nicely complement each other. From the user's point of view, carrying a single device that does everything on the road is much better than having to carry multiple devices and manage their synchronizations. Addressing those needs, smartphones started to emerge. Smartphones can be built from a PDA or from a mobile phone.



A smartphone can be a PDA with added network connectivity and phone functionalities. Representative models in this category include the Microsoft PocketPC Phone and Palm Treo. They target existing PDA users. Those smartphones have large touch screens, fast CPUs, and thumb keyboards (or handwriting recognition systems). However, they are also relatively bulky, have poor voice quality, and short battery life. The PDA-style smartphones are popular among business users who desire the computing power and don't mind much about the inconvenience.

A smartphone can also evolve from a regular mobile phone. In this case, it is a mobile phone with a programmable brain. Representative models of those smartphones include all Symbian smartphones from Nokia, Sony Ercisson, Motorola, as well as Microsoft's Windows Mobile smartphones. They target the general consumers. This type of smartphone excels in voice calls and text messaging, but is less effective for computational intensive tasks or applications that require a lot of typing. Power users can find many advanced PDA features behind the simple UI of these smartphones.

The term smartphone is best known as the marketing names for Nokia Series 60 devices, Microsoft Windows Mobile devices, and Palm PDA phones. But in fact, the scope of smartphones is much greater than those devices. For instance, the vastly popular Nokia Series 40 phones, which have sold more than 250 million units, perfectly match the smartphone definition. If you're buying a new mobile phone today, you are probably getting one of the programmable smartphone packed with PDA-like features.

The Smartphone is hugely successful in the marketplace. Nokia alone ships more than 10 million Symbian-based smartphones (Nokia Series 60 and 80 devices) every year. And the annual growth rate of the smartphone market has been over 100 percent. The "mobile phone-style" smartphones far outsell the "PDA-style" smartphones, despite their similar price points. In the U.S., the once large PDA market has been almost completely squeezed out by smartphones. What makes smartphones so successful? Let's check out some core smartphone features.

What Can a Smartphone Do?

Smartphones are very useful to busy individuals in modern society. However, a challenge for smartphone users is to discover exactly what your device can do, and actually take advantage of it. Many people I know just use their $500 smartphones as simple mobile phones for voice communications. That is because they never explored their smartphones beyond the simplistic "phone" user interface, or never had the time to research third-party software applications for the device. But a little time spent on exploration could mean big productivity gains and a much better return on your investment in the smartphone. In general, smartphones have the following key features.

(Note: Most smartphone features and techniques covered in this section are discussed in detail in the Nokia Smartphone Hacks book. Similar features are also generally available on non-Nokia smartphones.)

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