The Internet has become integral to our lives. While it is arguable whether its advent is nothing but beneficial, it is nevertheless the driving force behind one of the next great frontiers in technology. This new movement is that of smartphones.
What is a smartphone?
Smartphone adoption is on the rise and will eventually become the norm. But as of today, most people still carry around what industry experts call “dumbphones” or, for a more politically correct term, a “feature phone”.
What makes a smartphone “smart”? While there isn’t a clear-cut answer to what defines a smartphone and what doesn’t, there are a number of distinct features that almost all smartphones have.
First of all, and most importantly, smartphones are all found to be running one of the following smartphone operating systems; iOS by Apple, Android by Google, Windows Mobile (soon to be rebranded to Windows Phone 7) by Microsoft, Blackberry OS by Research in Motion, webOS by Palm (now owned by HP) and Symbian OS. There are other lower-profile OSes that are also smartphone platforms, but the ones mentioned here are the major players.
These platforms all have the same capabilities of your run-of-the-mill feature-phone OS, in addition to desktop-like browsing experience, rich email integration, mobile apps and advanced audio and video multimedia capabilities. On the hardware side, smart- phones are much closer to laptops and desktops than mobile phones.
Many smartphones today are running 1GHz processors, which is about the average speed of a computer form the late 90s to the early 2000s. Smartphones are also support Wi-Fi and have much larger internal storage for files much like a full sized computer.
Smartphone adoption has exploded
While accessing the internet over radio wave isn’t the newest idea, it hasn’t become commercially viable to the masses until recently. With the development of 2G, 3G and now 4G data speeds, having the Internet “on the go” is now a reality. Approximately 5-6 years ago, 2G internet allowed people to connect to the internet at the speed of about 200kbps, which was at the time the speed of budget DSL lines.
While it was good for small data transfers such as emails and mobile websites, it remained less ideal than your home broadband connection. With the introduction of 3G on both of the most popular forms of cellular communication, GSM and CDMA, changed everything.
These 3G technologies were the ones that had speeds slightly slower than your average home DSL or Cable line but provided enough bandwidth throughputs to allow heavy data applications such as YouTube to become possible. This allowed multimedia centric devices to explode in popularity.
To see a microcosm of the result of the 2G -> 3G effect on the mobile industry, one need not look any further than Apple’s extremely successful line of iPhones. While the original iPhone was different, and did things that other phones never could do before, it was held down by the fact that it could only achieve 2G data speeds, which at the time was hardly worth paying a premium for data access. Then the introduction of the iPhone 3G changed everything. It was now possible to have the internet in its full glory in the palm of your hand at acceptable loading speeds.
What does this mean to you?
As a regular user, you can expect that, as the years go by, all phones will transition to being smartphones. One could also wonder if a smartphone is really needed. The same was said about computers 15 years ago and of the Internet 10 years ago. Today, take away either and the world as we know it today falls apart.
Some experts are predicting the portable internet capable devices such as smartphones like the iPhone, Blackberries and Android Phone as well as tablets like the iPads will spell the end of classic netbook/laptop/desktop computing. While I don’t believe computers will disappear, the availability and affordability of Internet access from wireless providers will keep the push going for newer and faster devices.
Some carrier are, at the time this article is being written, deploying 4G network that are based on either WiMAX (Wi-Fi inspired) or LTE. These 4G technologies have theoretical speeds of 50 to 100 mbps. That’s faster than most home connections! With these kinds of speed, content like HD movies and high bit rate music streams will become the norm. Much like cell phones spelled the end of pagers, the day of the smartphone is approaching