Who invented the Smart Phone

The Social Media Glossary lists “smart phone” as one of the top 100 words or phrases in the social media dictionary and defines a smart phone as any “hand-held device capable of advanced tasks beyond that of a standard mobile phone”.

This definition is quite broad and may not be entirely accurate. Yet, the term “smart phone” is, still at best, an all-encompassing acronym for any kind of hand held device that makes phone calls and performs PC-like data management functions combined with video and music entertainment.

The earliest smart phones evolved from PDAs. A brief survey of official Internet sources who have attempted to define the word “smart phone such as Pure Mobile (Aug 15, 2010), “What are Smart Phones ?” or Google search (August 19, 2010), indicate a common thread. That the change from regular mobile phone to enhanced PDA most significantly influences the general notion of what constitutes a “smart phone.”

Smart phones are “programmable” and feature “user customization”. They perform “PC-like functions” such as “Web browsing”, text and e-mail support, scheduling and contact management, and data storage. They are also “multimedia devices” that play music and take pictures or video.

Over the years, the notion of what constitutes a smart phone changes with technology. Today, “smart phone” is an acronym for a mobile phone operating system platform that supports application development and customization. Respected industry sources such as Gartner and Canlys use the operating system / App dichotomy as a way to classify “smart phones” by operating system for tracking industry sales data.

The Word “Smart Phone” is not exclusively Defined by the Operating System/App Dichotomy.

A close examination of the 100 phones currently available through the four major U.S. carriers Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile marketed as either “smart phones or “PDA/smart phones” indicates three primary levels of sophistication: feature phone, low-end or hybrid smart phone, and smart phone. Broadband Genie on its web site doesn’t officially recognize a hybrid smart phone category, but the hybrid smart phone is a new trend and also a big consumer item.

A basic phone has a numerical keypad and is strictly limited to basic phone functions, such as texting and voice mail. It has a monochrome or simple display. A feature phone is a hand-held computer that comes with personal contact management software and supports a proprietary multimedia service, music and/or video subscriber services. It may perform video and picture messaging, voice recognition tasks, have a color display and Bluetooth technology.

It is hard to quantify what differentiates a hybrid smart phone from a fully-featured smart phone. Hybrid or low-end smart phones are feature phones that add one or two smart phone functions; media player, high-end video, social networking tools, visual voice mail, touch screen technology, or an HTML Web browser. Hybrid smart phones have flash memory and storage memory up to 16G

Smart Phones Contain a Specific Array of Features

Smart phones appear to follow the operating system /App dichotomy plus contain an array of features that hybrid phones don’t normally support. These include:

  • Advanced connectivity options, 802.11 b.g capable, wireless hot spot/modem
  • Advanced social networking tools and/or integrated social networking software
  • High-end video camera and utilities, HD streaming video
  • View, edit, and print documents, synchronize documents and e-mail with PC, send/receive fax
  • Advance Bluetooth
  • Full HTML web browser, Instant messaging
  • Platform –specific or proprietary media player and media subscriber services
  • GPS locator service/driving directions
  • Big colorful display 2.5” – 4”
  • 256Mb – 1 G flash memory and up to 64G storage memory

You Can Describe the Major Trends, but Still Not Draw a Definitive Line

The most tangible criteria that separate hybrid smart phones from fully-featured smart phones besides the operating system/ App designation is the general notion that smart phones are “data-centric” devices when compared to enhanced feature phones. The majority of smart phones are clearly identifiable as “data-centric or data-intensive devices.

Nonetheless, manufacturers keep making low end models that are becoming more and more sophisticated. Of the 100 models surveyed and marketed as “smart phones” roughly 30 % of them are advanced multimedia phones, hybrids that support streaming video, GPS systems, or other smart-phone level technology. They are data-intensive devices and who is to say they are not smart phones? More so, when some feature phones on the market now support Apps.

Whereas before, an all-inclusive definition which originates from the technological PDA/phone convergence, that includes keywords for “programmability”, “user customization”, “data-centric,” “Web browser,” “multimedia”, and “PC-like functionality,” is still quite relevant. A feature phone can only be defined by the relative absence of any smart phone functions.

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