A smartphone, or smart phone, is a mobile phone built on a mobile operating system, with more advanced computing capability and connectivity than a feature phone. The first smartphones combined the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA), including email functionality, with a mobile phone. Later models added the functionality of portable media players, low-end compact digital cameras, pocket video cameras, and GPS navigation units to form one multi-use device. Many modern smartphones also include high-resolution touchscreens and web browsers that display standard web pages as well as mobile-optimized sites. High-speed data access is provided by Wi-Fi, mobile broadband, NFC and Bluetooth. In recent years, the rapid development of mobile app markets and of mobile commerce have been drivers of smartphone adoption.
The mobile operating systems (OS) used by modern smartphones include Google‘s Android, Apple‘s iOS, Symbian, Blackberry Ltd‘s BlackBerry 10, Samsung‘s Bada, Microsoft‘s Windows Phone, Hewlett-Packard‘s webOS, and embedded Linux distributions such as Maemo and MeeGo. Such operating systems can be installed on many different phone models, and typically each device can receive multiple OS software updates over its lifetime. A few other upcoming operating systems are Mozilla‘s Firefox OS, Canonical Ltd.‘s Ubuntu Phone, and Tizen.
Worldwide sales of smartphones exceeded those of feature phones in early 2013. As of July 18, 2013, 90 percent of global handset sales are attributed to the purchase of Android and iPhone smartphones.
Origin of the term
Devices that combined telephony and computing were conceptualized as early as 1973, and were offered for sale beginning in 1994. The term “smartphone”, however, did not appear until 1997, when Ericsson described its GS 88 “Penelope” concept as a Smart Phone.
The distinction between smartphones and feature phones can be vague, and there is no official definition for what constitutes the difference between them. One of the most significant differences is that the advanced application programming interfaces (APIs) on smartphones for running third-party applications can allow those applications to have better integration with the phone’s OS and hardware than is typical with feature phones. In comparison, feature phones more commonly run on proprietary firmware, with third-party software support through platforms such as Java ME or BREW. An additional complication is that the capabilities found in newer feature phones exceed those of older phones that had once been promoted as smartphones.
Some manufacturers and providers use the term “superphone” for their high end phones with unusually large screens and other expensive features.