A smartphone is a cellular telephone with an integrated computer and other features not originally associated with telephones, such as an operating system, Web browsing and the ability to run software applications. The first smartphone was IBM's Simon, which was presented as a concept device (rather than a consumer device) at the 1992 COMDEX computer industry trade show. 

What's the difference between a smartphone and a cell phone?
When Simon debuted, the smartphone's features clearly differentiated it from other cell phones, which at that time were just telephones that didn't need a landline connection. There is no standard definition that clearly delineates a smartphone -- many devices marketed simply as cell phones offer similar features to those marketed as smartphones.


Some vendor or analyst-suggested requirements for designation as a smartphone:

  • A recognized mobile operating system, such as Nokia's Symbian, Google's Android, Apple's iOS or the BlackBerry OS

  • Internet connectivity

  • A mobile browser

  • The ability to sync more than one email account to the device

  • Embedded memory

  • Hardware and/or software-based QWERTY keyboard

  • Wireless synchronization with other devices, such as laptop or desktop computers

  • The ability to download applications and run them independently

  • Support for third-party applications

  • The ability to run multiple applications simultaneously

  • Touchscreen

  • Wi-Fi


Other smartphone or cell phone features include:

  • Texting

  • Digital cameras, typically with video capability

  • Gaming

  • Unified messaging

  • Personal information management

  • GPS (global positioning system)

  • Remote control of computers

  • Remote control of home or business electronic systems

Consumer smartphones evolved out of personal digital assistants (PDAs), rather than cell phones around the turn of the 21st century, when devices such as the PalmPilot began to include  wireless connectivity. 


This was last updated in June 2007
Posted by: Margaret Rouse
View the next item in this Essential Guide: tablet PC or view the full guide: Guide to enterprise mobile app development and SOA

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