101: What Really is a Smartphone?

A ‘Smartphone’ is one of those often used but little understood terms in today’s mobile tech jargon. So what does it really mean? Why should a guy like you or me opt for a Smartphone instead of a non-smart phone?


There are 2 main differentiating characteristics of a Smartphone:

1. Advanced Operating Systems + (Virtually) Infinite extensibility through applications: Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile, iOS – do these names ring a bell? These are mobile phone operating systems.

The equivalents of Windows or Mac OS on your computer, they help form a layer of interaction between your phone’s hardware and applications. These platforms are open to developers to develop whatever applications they wish. And because such applications can easily interact with the phone’s hardware (through the OS), they tend to be much more powerful in terms of their functionality than ordinary Java applications that can be installed on any normal phone.

At last count, Apple had over 200,000 apps in its store, while Android had over 50,000 apps in its Android Marketplace. And these ‘app stores’ are accessible from the phone itself for instant downloads of both free and paid applications. Sounds tempting, right? There is no end to how much functionality you can add to your phone. Application categories range from Productivity, Entertainment, Communication, Finance, Health, Lifestyle, Multimedia, News, Social to Travel and everything in between.

2. And of course, smartness: Well, technically, point 1 i.e. an ‘operating system platform open to developers’ is really the only minimum criteria to classify a Smartphone, but smartphones are generally also expected to be ‘smart’. Do you have a phone that asks you for the sever address, port etc if you wish to set it up for email access? Well, it’s not a Smartphone (even if the advertising brochure said so!). Smartphones are clever than that – they will figure out the server from your email id. And you thought Smartphones were for geeks? J Its actually the opposite, they are generally much more refined and intuitive than the non-smart phones, and therefore can be used by the not so technically inclined as well, to do powerful things with their phones.

So think excellent email, calendar, organizer integration; think powerful apps presented in a simple, intuitive way – yup, that’s a smartphone.

Have any of you guys shifted from a non-smart phone (these days called a ‘feature’ phone) to a smartphone recently? What do you like (or not like) about your new smartphone? Do share your experiences!

[101 article from Sahil, Founder of PhoneCurry].

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