A smart phone can be described as a device that employs a mobile operating system, and possess more connectivity and computing options than an ordinary feature phone. During the design of the first smart phone, the manufacturers combined the features of a common mobile phone with those of a personal digital assistant. Later developments saw the inclusion of additional functions, like cameras, portable media players, and GPS navigation into a single phone. Modern innovations included the inclusion of touch screens with high resolution and web browsers. This achievement allows the user to access the Internet conveniently and visit any desired website. Today, for faster data access, smart phones can connect to mobile broadband or a Wi-Fi network. Modern smart phones use a range of mobile operating system software. They include BlackBerry OS, WebOS, Android, Bada, Symbian, and iOS, among others. It is possible to install the software on multiple phones produced by different manufacturers (Rheingold 19).
The combination of computing and telephony was first conceptualized in the 1970’s, but it took some time before sales begun. Ericsson Company was the first to name the concept of combining telephony and computing as “smart phone.” Smart phones are close to feature phones in functionality and operating system they run. However, smart phones are distinct because they use application-programming interfaces that can allow the support of the third party applications. This strategy allows applications to be more and better integrable with the operating system used and the hardware. Feature phones mostly use proprietary firmware, and supporting of the third-party software is achieved by use of BREW or Java ME. New models of smart phones are developed every day with a distinct feature being their large screens, and a wide range of options. The technological convenience that is provided by smart phones makes them expensive as compared to usual phones (Rheingold 32).
The idea of combining visual display and data processing with telephones was first patented in 1973 by Theodore George. This idea has caused the development of software and applications that pave way for the recent use of smart phones in paying bills and banking. IBM Company developed a prototype in 1992, and it can be termed as the first successful attempt in including PDA features to a cellular phone. BellSouth Company took over the development of the prototype, to produce a refined phone popularly known as Simon Personal Communicator, in 1994. The latter can be said to be the first “smart phone” to be developed although, at that time, the word was not in use. Its display was a touch screen, and it had more features than a regular cell phone including its ability to connect to the Internet. Several applications were also included namely: calculator, address book, appointment scheduler, and touch screen keypads that were predictive. Later in 1996, Nokia released its initial smart phone that was the Nokia 9000, which did well in sales around the world. It was like a palmtop computer that also had a PDA from HP. For the two devices to work in synch, they were held together by use of a hinge known as clamshell design. It had a QWERTY keyboard on the lower side with the screen on the upper side, which had a resolution of 640*200 pixels. They used an operating system known as GEOS V3.0 in web browsing and sending of emails online (Chaouchi 33).
In the 1990’s, the phones that were for sale had minimal features and characteristics and many people still needed to carry their PDA. The PDAs were dedicated devices and ran on operating systems like Pocket PC, Blackberry OS, and Palm OS. The same operating systems later evolved into the current mobile operating software. The operating systems are used to power the running of several high-end smart phones. In 2001, a company by the name Palm Inc. designed and produced the Kyocera 6035 that is known as the first smart phone ever made in the US. It combined the features of a regular mobile phone and those of a PDA and used Verizon Wireless network in its operation. Its web browsing capability was limited, and its sales were mainly in North America. In 2004, HP designed and developed a smart phone that combined the features of the earlier version of PDA, known as the iPaq h6315. It was more of a PDA though with given cellular capabilities of previous versions. This step paved way to the current sophisticated smart phones from different companies (Rheingol 47).
Different smart phones have distinct characteristics depending on their intended purposes, and it can be attributed to their use of different operating systems. There is the Symbian operating system that was initially designed for Symbian Limited phones. The OS is now maintained by Accenture and has been used on a range of phones, especially on Nokia’s smart phones. The first phone to be sold as a smart phone in the year 2000 used the operating system, which is Ericsson R380. Symbian maintained as the most popular platform for smart phones until the year 2011 when Android OS took the position. In October 2011, Nokia announced that it was no longer using Symbian, but had now adopted Windows Phone on its smart phones.
Later, the Blackberry was designed and developed by RIM allowing wireless devices to send and receive emails real-time. In 2002, Blackberry included messaging, voice, browser, and data to make what can be referred to as the first real smart phone. Well-known phones using the operating system are Blackberry Curve, Blackberry Bold, and Blackberry Torch. Android, also a smart phone platform that is known to be open-source, and was first designed in 2003. It was a project by Google in connection with other related companies, and the group of companies involved was known as Open Handset Alliance. The HTC dream was the first smart phone to use the application, and it was distributed by T-Mobile. The software had Google applications in it including a browser, maps, and Gmail (Rheingold 72).
The iOS was developed in 2007 by Apple Inc. and was used on the first iPhone, and it introduced the use of multi-touch interface. It used a large touch screen that allowed one to use a finger for direct input instead of the normal keypad that was used later. The latest releases by Apple running on the operating system include iPhone 4S, iCloud, and iOS 5. Windows Phone is also an operating system that was developed by Microsoft in the year 2010. Microsoft uses a Metro Design Language that inspired the design and functionality of the OS. It is unique and integrates services such as Microsoft Office, Xbox Live, Xbox Music, as well as Google Accounts and common social networks (Rheingold, 84).
The usage of smart phones all around the world has been constantly increasing, and in a recent survey, almost half of people residing in the US have access to smart phones. It is projected that they will constitute more than 70% of all mobile devices used in the US by the year 2013. In China, the second quarter of 2012 saw the smart phones constituting 51% of the handset shipments. By November 2011, Apple Inc made the most profits through sales of their smart phones. Apple Inc. enjoys a 52% share of the total operating profits in the mobile industry.
The use of smart phones has been on the rise due to their advanced capabilities that even allow customers to shop by use of their phones. However, future smart phones are expected to have more features to increase their efficiency (Rheingold 96). They are expected to include Augmented Reality that combine computer data with what people see and feel in the real world. Organic Light Emitting diode is a technology that could see future smart phones has flexible screens. Most people use their smart phones for entertainment purposes too and so the need to include a projector. Different companies’ innovating has seen more features and application boost performance and sales of their smart phones. This has led to reliable phones that can carry out a variety of tasks and can replace PDAs. The evolution of smart phones has changed the convenience previously set on mobile phones and revolutionized communication.