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Definition: smartphone

A combination cellphone and handheld computer that created the greatest tech revolution since the Internet. A smartphone does everything a personal computer can do, and because of its mobility, much more. Although screen size is a limitation compared to a desktop monitor, the increasingly higher resolutions and pixel density make viewing pleasurable (see phablet). Typing is always more cumbersome than a desktop keyboard; however, voice recognition eliminates some of the tedium.

A smartphone combines a cellphone with email and Web, music and movie player, camera, camcorder, GPS navigation, voice recorder, alarm clock, flashlight, photo album, address book and a lot more. It is also a personal assistant that delivers information and answers questions about almost everything (see virtual assistant). Because a smartphone is generally within reach 24/7, it is much more personal than a personal computer.

Apps, Apps and More Apps
Like any computer, what gives life to the hardware is the software, and there are hundreds of thousands of mobile applications, both free and paid (see online app store). Most apps are created for both iPhones (iOS) and Androids. However, there are way too many in the same category, most of which offer very similar functions. For example, in 2020, there were more than 200 voice recorder apps in each of the two app stores for Android and iOS. See how to select a mobile device, smartphone features, smartphone operating system and cellphones vs. smartphones.

A Dumb Phone and Smart Everything Else
Ironically, the least spectacular thing about a smartphone is the phone. A smartphone can cut out and drop calls like any cellphone, and the more users within a cell tower's reach at a given moment, the more likely the interruptions.

In 1994, IBM and BellSouth introduced the heavy and pricey Simon Personal Communicator, a phone/PDA touted as the first smartphone (see personal communicator). Amassing a large audience in the 2000s, BlackBerry became the popular corporate smartphone; however, in 2007, the iPhone changed the industry forever. See iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian, feature phone and smartphone keyboard. See also smart TV.

The First Smartphone Platforms
These models were the first smartphones on the market. Today, iPhones and Android are the only two platforms. Windows phones were discontinued, and BlackBerry offers only Android models. In its heyday, the BlackBerry's physical keyboard was its trademark.

A Double Touchscreen
The YotaPhone from Russia's Yota cellular carrier had an LCD screen in front and an E Ink screen in back. YotaPhones were the only smartphones visible in bright sunlight. See E Ink.

Moto Z Modular Smartphones
In 2016, Motorola introduced its Moto Z phones with snap-ons that add functions such as hi-fi speakers, a projector and, as in this example, a professional Hasselblad camera. See Moto Z. (Image courtesy of Motorola Mobility LLC, www.motorola.com)

Ahead of Its Time
In 2002, this Palm Treo ran the popular Palm PDA application along with email and Web browsing. See Palm. (Image courtesy of Palm, Inc.)

What's Inside
Split open a smartphone and you find the battery takes up most of the room. The system-on-chip (SoC) is the brains of the device, and it uses very little space. See SoC.