Trying to define “Smart phone”


People want to have gadgets in their pockets. You want to call by phone, check your schedule, look at some notes, get updated with your e-mails or even read and edit documents. Once people considered carrying a laptop the only option to do all these. But now, we want all these functionality, or even more, in a small gadget that smartly fits in one’s pocket. So, there were PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants); but it made you carry a cell phone and a PDA – two things at once! Then, came  the idea of smart phones that is still a phone but has many other functionalities. In parallel with these high-end smart phones, low-end phones also experienced addition of advanced features. Today we call these phone feature phone. With the advent of technology, line of distinction between smart phones and feature phones got blurred.

Editors, on their introduction to the “IEEE Pervasive Computing” issue on smart phones described smart mobile phone as  “arguably the first realistic platform for everyday ubiquitous computing applications” [visit page]

When I wanted to know what is the difference between a smart phone and a feature phone, I heard some voices to dispute… Current article on Wikipedia says “A smartphone is a mobile phone that offers more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a basic ‘feature phone‘” Anyway, this definition is not clear, so let’s explore some more.

TrueKnowledge, an answer engine based on knowledge base and semantics,  defines it as “a mobile telephone that has extensive capabilities”

DBpedia, another knowledge base, has the definition as: “A smartphone is a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, often with PC-like functionality (PC-mobile handset convergence). There is no industry standard definition of a smartphone. For some, a smartphone is a phone that runs complete operating system software providing a standardized interface and platform for application developers. For others, a smartphone is simply a phone with advanced features like e-mail, Internet and e-book reader capabilities, and/or a built-in full keyboard or external USB keyboard and VGA connector. In other words, it is a miniature computer that has phone capability. Growth in demand for advanced mobile devices boasting powerful processors, abundant memory, larger screens and open operating systems has outpaced the rest of the mobile phone market for several years.”

An study described the Smart Phone as “A Ubiquitous Input Device” and the authors noted, “We use the term smart phone to describe an enhanced mobile phone. Our analysis blurs the line between smart phones and PDAs such as the Palm Pilot because the feature sets continue to converge.”

Another definition by a group of researchers from Technical Research Centre of Finland describing smart phone seems convincingly complete. It says: “Smart phones combine mobile phone capabilities with a versatile computing platform that accepts third-party software. As with the PC, the smart phone’s emergence has led to a rapidly increasing number of available applications,… Such devices facilitate novel and multimodal interaction methods, including pointing, free-form gestures, and implicit, context-based control. In addition to controlling the mobile applications, a smart phone can act as a central controller for interacting with external appliances through Bluetooth, messaging, and Internet Protocol (IP) networking, for example. Interaction convergence has already begun; most people will soon use a single device, with various modalities, for an increasing number of control tasks.” [view article]

In contrary to the line of difference between feature phone and smart phone, earlier definition come with confusions. One publication defines, “Smart Phone is an emerging mobile phone technology that supports Java program execution and provides both short-range wireless connectivity (Bluetooth) and cellular network connectivity through which the Internet can be accessed.” But today, we really don’t call a phone smart if it can just run some java app or has wireless connectivity :@ [view article]

Pei Zheng of Microsoft and Lionel M. Ni of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in their publication, Spotlight: The Rise of the Smart Phone, described the features of a smart phone:

“Unlike most conventional cell phones, a smart phone will have these features:

  • A color LCD screen with backlight.
  • Enhanced wireless capability such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and infrared and the ability to synchronize with computers.
  • A large memory (RAM and ROM) and persistent storage (memory cards or built-in hard disk).
  • An advanced operating system with a set of applications that usually include games and calendar, scheduler, address book, media player, book reader, recorder, note, and calculator functions. Many have a camera; some even have a Carl Zeiss lens.”

they also classified cell phones into three categories, in response to industrial camps,

  • high-end cell phones by cell phone manufacturers, such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola
  • PDA phones by HP and Palm
  • Enhanced wireless email devices (that is, Blackberry) by Research in Motion

I guess, so far our discussion had not brought us all into a ubiquitous ground on the “line of distinction” between smart phones and feature phones, but we all agree that “a smart phone is a phone that is smart” (hell yeh! I have given the ubiquitous definition of smart phone, now all you have to do is look, for the definition of smart! LOL).

Umm, hmm, lets stop the discussion. OK! man… from all my digging on the web and tech articles, papers and blah blah blah, I have realize,

  • A smart phone has capabilities to do more things than a feature phone and less things than a computer
  • A smart phone runs on its native full-feature OS
  • User can develop and install applications in the smart phone, just not the Java or BREW ones, but those which run on the OS and can use device resources extensively
  • Some people argue that smart phones has true multi-tasking capability.
  • and blah, blah, blah…

we can spend all day on this discussion, I am just stopping it for now 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Trying to define “Smart phone”

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