Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Smartphones and Tablets

To most of us the word smartphone rings Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Nokia and Samsung in our heads. But how much do we really know. No I'm not gonna show you how to increase your battery life or take better photos, or tell you which iPhone is better than the other.

A smartphone is a mobile phone device with a computer like operating system. These devices are capable of completing tasks that could only be done by computers.
Smartphones have evolved over time and are nearly taking over the PC market completely. These devices may have been looked at as optional at first but now define our way of living. Of course they are just a way to show class for some.

Smartphones were offered for sell in 1994 although the term Smartphone was first used in 1997 by Ericsson to describe its GS 88 Penelope. concept.
As of now, there isn't a sharp distinction between smartphones and feature phones or dumb phones as some call them. This is because feature phones such as the Nokia Asha series (Even though marketed as smartphones) can do the basics of a smartphone such as Email, Apps, camera, Multimedia, etc...
So in my opinion, a smartphone is a portable mobile computer with telephony.

Tablets are larger versions of smartphones without the telephony feature. (Some do have telephony). These are usually more powerful than a smartphone but you just cannot fit one into your pockets.

How did smartphones come to be

The first "smartphone" was an IBM prototype developed in 1992. In 1996 Nokia released the Nokia 9000 Communicator. It was a phone and PDA combo. It run on the GEOS V3.0 operating system and featured a Qwerty keyboard. Had support fro Email and Text based web browsing.
Smartphones are available in various sizes, colors and have varying processing capabilities. More expensive smartphones usually pack more powerful gear ie more powerful CPUs and Graphics processors.  They pack more RAM, larger batteries and most importantly larger and better displays.

Although most smartphones can perform the same tasks, not all can do same with the same efficiency. For example a more powerful phone will have better web browsing experience compared to a weaker one. It will play back higher quality video and audio.

Smartphone Photography:

Galaxy Zoom

Smartphones pack digital cameras some of which can rival compact point and shoot digital cameras. The Nokia 808 PureView and Nokia 1020 are at the forefront of this game.

The first cell phone with a built-in camera was The SCH-V200 manufactured by Samsung and released in South Korea in June of 2000. The SCH-V200  was capable of taking 20 photos at 350,000-pixel resolution, which is 0.35-megapixels,
The J-SH04 made by Sharp in November of 2000. The J-SH04 could take photos at 110,000-pixel resolution or 0.11-megapixels. The  J-SH04 allowed you to send your photos electronically.

The Samsung Galaxy S IV takes advantage of its superior image post processing power to make up for the average hardware and produce marvelous images.

Some camera phones like the Galaxy zoom feature optical zoom. This however makes it bulky This concept may not be the most portable but proves you with the best of both worlds.

Smartphones as music players.

Nokia N91 Music Phone
The Samsung SPH-M2100, the first mobile phone with built-in MP3 players were produced in South Korea in August 1999

Samsung SPH-M2100
Smartphones may not rival the high end portable music players but are definitely good enough to push over the cheap ones. Smartphones are portable and can play back almost anything you can throw at them. You can have an entire day of music playback without having to change battery or storage card

Smartphones for navigation.

Navigation has always been an important service provided by smartphones. Smartphones equipped with GPS (Global Positioning Systems) are capable of pin pointing your exact position on the globe. This coupled with mapping services such as Nokia Maps (Here Maps) and Google maps can help you navigate cheaply and easily.

Smartphones are an efficient way of always being up to date with the latest news, weather, sports and anything you can think about. This is especially evident with Apple and the iPhone. The App store claims to have an app for everything and really I cannot think of a thing you cant get an app for.

Smartphones are literally computers and can be used for anything you previously needed a computer for. Smartphones can used used to create and edit documents, spreadsheets and even presentations. Tablets are more suited to this as they offer a larger screen.

Smartphones as portable gaming devices: 

Smartphones are the most popular gaming devices today. Many developers are targeting smartphones and tablets. IOS is the largest gaming platform on earth. Gaming revenue on this platform far exceeds the competition.

Smartphones are used to transact business. They are used to make payments with services such as Google wallet. They may eventually replace the credit card.
NB: This is different from mobile money services provided by the network providers as common in developing countries.

Smartphones are generally the same pieces of hardware if you put the operating systems aside. They are all display, a few buttons and a lot of built it processing hardware and antennae.

Mobile Operating systems:

Blackberry OS

The first blackberry devices were released in 1999. This platform made secure, eral time push mail possible. Push mail is the ability to receive email directly onto your phone without using a web browser.Popular models are the Bold, Torch and Curve. The Blackberry Z10, Q10 and Q5 are new models running blackberry's new platform Blackberry 10 OS.

Symbian OS

Symbian was developed by Psion and later managed by Symbian and Nokia. It is now under Accenture. It runs only on ARM processors. The current form of Symbian is an open-source platform developed by Symbian Foundation in 2009, Symbian was most popular with the S60 platform by Nokia. It run every single famous Nokia phone you can think of.

Android OS

Android is an open source platform founded in 2003 by Andy Rubin. It is backed by Google. The first Android smartphone was the HTC Dream released in October 2008. Android is the most popular OS powering over 50% of global smartphones. It has archived this by having many hardware manufacturers lie Samsung, Sony and HTC.  Samsung alone has about 50% of android market share.

Android being Linux has support for a lot of hardware and this has made it very popular for manufactures and developers. It is a desktop grade operating system and by  the way can run your PC if you know how to make it do so.


IOS of iPhone OS was developed by Apple Inc and released with the original iPhone in 2007. It supported multi touch interface and the iPhone was one of the first devices to launch with a capacities touch screen. (touch screen that responded to smooth touch and gestures from your finger tips rather than a stylus) This display, way ahead of its time changed smartphones as we know it. Touch screen technology became a lot more popular and buttons are now a thing of the past in most smartphones.

The first iPhone didn't support apps until June 2007 when finally an update allowed it to have web 2.0 apps running in its web browser. This was solved in July 2008 when the iPhone 3G was released along with the App Store.

Windows Phone

Windows Phone is owned and developed by Microsoft. It was unveiled as Windows Phone 7 in Feb 2010. The OS looked radically different compared to anything you are used to. It had Microsoft's Metro UI or Modern UI which comprised of Live Tiles instead of a grid of icons and home screen widgets.

Windows Phone had nearly all Microsoft services like Sky drive, Office and Xbox. It was praised for its uniqueness and simplicity. This however didn't amuse everyone as the operating system lacked support for a lot of things that competitor devices were already capable of such as HD displays.

Nokia was and still is the Major player on the Windows Phone platform. Windows Phone 8 is the newest version of this OS. This added support for multi-size tiles and multi-core processors among others.

Other Platforms

Ubuntu OS
Other not so common platforms that some of us may not have ever heard of include Bada which is Samsung's own home grown platform. It runs on the Samsung Wave S8500. Palm OS is another one. It run on the Palm Centro. Windows Mobile was another not so popular platform which was mostly adopted by HTC before android became popular.

Jolla Sailfish OS
There are loads of Linux based operating systems such as Ubuntu mobile, Meego, Maemo 5, Sailfish and others.

Smartphones are part of our life today . We have reached a point of not being able to live without them. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have greatly helped the growth of smartphone. The youth hardly communicate with conventional SMS or phone calls as there are cheaper online services for both texts and online calling.

Nokia N9 running MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan

Don't forget to let us know how smartphones have changed or influenced your life. Tell us what you think should be done to improve the experience and whether or not you think having these devices has made the world better or worse.