Samsung Galaxy S5 - Android Smartphone (pictured: the camera and heart rate sensor)
A smartphone (or smart phone) is a mobile phone with more advanced computing capability and connectivity than basic feature phones. Smartphones typically include the features of a phone with those of another popular consumer device, such as a personal digital assistant, a media player, a digital camera, and/or a GPS navigation unit. Later smartphones include all of those plus the features of a touchscreen computer, including web browsing, Wi-Fi, 3rd-party apps,motion sensor, mobile payment and 3G.


Early years

The first caller identification receiver
Devices that combined telephony and computing were first conceptualized by Theodore G. Paraskevakos in 1971 and patented in 1973, and were offered for sale beginning in 1993. He was the first to introduce the concepts of intelligence, data processing and visual display screens into telephones which gave rise to the "Smartphone." In 1971, Paraskevakos, working with Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama, demonstrated a transmitter and receiver that provided additional ways to communicate with remote equipment, however it did not yet have general purpose PDA applications in a wireless device typical of smartphones. They were installed at Peoples' Telephone Company in Leesburg, Alabama and were demonstrated to several telephone companies. The original and historic working models are still in the possession of Paraskevakos.


IBM Simon and charging base (1993)

The first mobile phone to incorporate PDA features was an IBM prototype developed in 1992 and demonstrated that year at the COMDEX computer industry trade show. A refined version of the product was marketed to consumers in 1994 by BellSouth under the name Simon Personal Communicator. The Simon was the first cellular device that can be properly referred to as a "smartphone", although it wasn't called a smartphone in 1994. In addition to its ability to make and receive cellular phone calls, Simon was also able to send and receive faxes and e-mails and included several other apps like address book, calendar, appointment scheduler, calculator, world time clock, and note pad through its touch screen display. Simon is the first smartphone to be incorporated with the features of a PDA.
The term "smart phone" appeared in print in 1995, for describing AT&T's "PhoneWriter(TM) Communicator" as a "smart phone".


In the late 1990s, many mobile phone users carried a separate dedicated PDA device, running early versions of operating systems such as Palm OS, BlackBerry OS orWindows CE/Pocket PC. These operating systems would later evolve into mobile operating systems.
In 1996, Nokia released the Nokia 9000 which combined a PDA based on the GEOS V3.0 operating system from Geoworks with a digital cellular phone based on the Nokia 2110. The two devices were fixed together via a hinge in what became known as a clamshell design. When opened, the display was on the inside top surface and with a physical QWERTY keyboard on the bottom. The personal organizer provided e-mail, calendar, address book, calculator and notebook with text-based web browsing, and the ability to send and receive faxes. When the personal organizer was closed, it could be used as a digital cellular phone.
In June 1999, Qualcomm released a "CDMA Digital PCS Smartphone" with integrated Palm PDA and Internet connectivity, known as the "pdQ Smartphone".
In early 2000, the Ericsson R380 was released by Ericsson Mobile Communications, and was the first device marketed as a "smartphone". It combined the functions of a mobile phone and a personal digital assistant (PDA), supported limited web browsing with a resistive touchscreen utilizing a stylus.
In early 2001, Palm, Inc. introduced the Kyocera 6035, which combined a PDA with a mobile phone and operated on Verizon. It also supported limited web browsing.
Smartphones before Android, iOS, and Blackberry, typically ran on Symbian, which was originally developed by Psion. It was the world's most widely used smartphone operating system until Q4 2010.

Mass adoption

In 1999, the Japanese firm NTT Docomo released the first smartphones to achieve mass adoption within a country. These phones ran on i-mode, which provided data transmission speeds up to 9.6 kbit/s. Unlike future generations of wireless services, NTT Docomo's i-mode used cHTML, a language which restricted some aspects of traditional HTML in favor of increasing data speed for the devices. Limited functionality, small screens and limited bandwidth allowed for phones to maximize the slower data speeds available.
The rise of i-mode helped NTT Docomo accumulate an estimated 40 million subscribers by the end of 2001. It was also ranked first in market capitalization in Japan and second globally. This power would wane in the face of the rise of 3G and new phones with advanced wireless network capabilities.
Outside of Japan smartphones were still a rare feature, although throughout the mid-2000s, devices based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile started to gain high popularity among businessmen and businesswomen in the U.S. The BlackBerry later gained mass adoption in the U.S., which in 2006 popularized the term CrackBerry due to its addictive nature. The company first released its GSM BlackBerry 6210, BlackBerry 6220, & BlackBerry 6230 devices in 2003. Also released was the Blackberry 7730 which featured a color screen. In 2006 and 2007, both operating systems were in a large lead in the North American market, although while BlackBerry was popular among both business people and young people, Windows Mobile was only popular in the former.
These successive waves of phone technology allowed users to email, fax and make traditional calls, making it a useful tool for business travelers. As the Blackberry gained customers, less sophisticated users were attracted to its many communication options.
In Europe, Windows Mobile was never a large player in the market, and BlackBerry didn't make a notable impact in the market until around 2008. Symbian was the most popular smartphone OS in Europe during the mid and late 2000s. This was largely led by Nokia, which has always been a popular brand outside of North America. Initially Nokia's Symbian devices were focused on business, the same way as Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices at the time. From 2006 onwards, Nokia started to make entertainment-focused smartphones, which were popularized by the Nseries. The N95, for instance, had breakthrough multimedia features for its time, and marked the start of a broader market of smartphones within younger people, and not just business. In Asia (except Japan), the trend was similar to Europe's.
Another company that made a breakthrough was the Palm. Although originally PDAs, Palms later turned into business-focused smartphones, largely competing with BlackBerry and Windows Mobile in the U.S. market, and was less popular in Europe and Asia.
All leaders of the 2000s suffered following the release of the iPhone.

iPhone & Android

In 2007, Apple Inc. introduced the iPhone, one of the first mobile phones to use a multi-touch interface. The iPhone was notable for its use of a large touchscreen for direct finger input as its main means of interaction, instead of a stylus, keyboard, or keypad typical for smartphones at the time. 2008 saw the release of the first phone to use Android called the HTC Dream (also known as the T-Mobile G1). Android is an open-source platform founded by Andy Rubin and backed by Google. Although Android's adoption was relatively slow at first, it started to gain widespread popularity in 2010, and now dominates the market.
Both of these platforms led to the drop of the previous leading companies. Microsoft, for instance, started a new OS from scratch, in the form of Windows Phone, which is now the third largest OS. Nokia abandoned Symbian and partnered with Microsoft to use Windows Phone on its smartphones. Palm was bought by Hewlett-Packard, turned into webOS, and later demised. BlackBerry also made a new system from scratch, BlackBerry 10.
The iPhone also had a knock-on effect on smartphone form factors. Before 2007 it was common for devices to have a numeric keypad or QWERTY keyboard in either a candybar or sliding form factor. However, by 2010, there were no top-tier smartphones with numeric keypads. As of 2014, BlackBerry Limited – with a 0.6% share of the market in Q4 2013 – is the sole remaining brand of high-end smartphones with physical keyboards.

The future

In 2013, the Fairphone company launched its first "socially ethical" smartphone at the London Design Festival to address concerns regarding the sourcing of materials in the manufacturing. In late 2013, QSAlpha commenced production of a smartphone designed entirely around security, encryption and identity protection. In December 2013, the world's first curved-OLED technology smartphones were introduced to the retail market with the sale of the Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex models.
Foldable OLED smartphones could be as much as a decade away because of the cost of producing them. There is a relatively high failure rate when producing these screens. As little as a speck of dust can ruin a screen during production. Creating a battery that can be folded is another hurdle. Samsung fully foldable phones are expected around 2016 to 2017.
A clear thin layer of crystal glass can be added to small screens like watches and smartphones that make them solar powered. Smartphones could gain 15% more battery life during a typical day. The first smartphones using this technology should arrive in 2015. This screen can also work to receive Li-Fi signals and so can the smartphone camera. The cost of these screens per smartphone is between $2 and $3, much cheaper than most new technology.
Near future smartphones might not have a traditional battery as their sole source of power. Instead, they may pull energy from radio, television, cellular or Wi-Fi signals.
In early 2014, smartphones are beginning to use Quad HD (2K) 2560x1440 on 5.5" screens with up to 534 ppi on devices such as the LG G3 which is a significant improvement over Apple's retina display. Quad HD is used in advanced televisions and computer monitors, but with 110 ppi or less on such larger displays.
In 2014, Wi-Fi will continue to become the primary network for smartphones. As these devices do more and more with data and Wi-Fi becomes more prevalent and easier to connect to, Wi-Fi First smartphones service will start to take off.
Since 2013, water and dustproofing have made their way into mainstream high end smartphones instead of specialist models with the Sony Xperia Z continuing through the Sony Xperia Z2 and also from other manufacturers with the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Mobile operating system

Main article: Mobile operating system


Main article: Android
Android 4.4.2 home screen
Android is an open-source platform founded in October 2003 by Andy Rubin and backed by Google, along with major hardware and software developers (such as Intel, HTC, ARM,Motorola and Samsung) that form the Open Handset Alliance. In October 2008, HTC released the HTC Dream, the first phone to use Android. The software suite included on the phone consists of integration with Google's proprietary applications, such as Maps, Calendar, and Gmail, and a full HTML web browser. Android supports the execution of native applications and third-party apps which are available via Google Play, which launched in October 2008 as Android Market. By Q4 2010, Android became the best-selling smartphone platform.


Main article: iOS
The original iPhone (2007)
In 2007, Apple Inc. introduced the iPhone, one of the first mobile phones to use a multi-touch interface. The iPhone was notable for its use of a large touchscreen for direct finger input as its main means of interaction, instead of a stylus, keyboard, or keypad as typical for smartphones at the time. In July 2008, Apple introduced its second generation iPhonewith a much lower list price and 3G support. Simultaneously, they introduced the App Store, which allowed any iPhone to install third-party native applications. Featuring over 500 applications at launch, the App Store eventually achieved 1 billion downloads in the first year, and 15 billion by 2011.

Windows Phone

Main article: Windows Phone
In February 2010, Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 7 with a User Interface inspired by Microsoft's "Metro Design Language", to replace Windows Mobile. Windows Phone 7 integrates with Microsoft services such as Microsoft SkyDrive, Office, Xbox and Bing, as well as non-Microsoft services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google accounts. This software platform runs the Microsoft Mobile smartphones, and has received some positive reception from the technology press and been praised for its uniqueness and differentiation.

Firefox OS

Main article: Firefox OS
Firefox OS (originally called the boot to gecko project) was demonstrated by Mozilla in February 2012. It was designed to have a complete community based alternative system for mobile devices, using open standards and HTML5 applications. The first commercially available Firefox OS phones were ZTE Open and Alcatel One Touch Fire. As of 2014 more companies have partnered with Mozilla including Panasonic (which is making a smart TV with Firefox OS) and Sony.

Sailfish OS

Main article: Sailfish OS
The Sailfish OS is based on the Linux kernel and Mer. Additionally Sailfish OS includes a partially or completely proprietary multi-tasking user interface programmed by Jolla. This user interface differentiate Jolla smartphones from others. Sailfish OS is intended to be a system made by many of the MeeGo team, which left Nokia to form Jolla, utilizing funding from Nokia's "Bridge" program which helps establish and support start-up companies formed by ex-Nokia employees.


Main article: Tizen
Tizen is a Linux-based operating system for devices, including smartphones, tablets, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) devices, smart TVs, laptops and smart cameras. Tizen is a project within the Linux Foundation and is governed by a Technical Steering Group (TSG) composed of Samsung and Intel among others. In April 2014, Samsung released the Samsung Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo, running Tizen.

Ubuntu Touch

Main article: Ubuntu Touch
Ubuntu Touch (also known as Ubuntu Phone) is a mobile version of the Ubuntu operating system developed by Canonical UK Ltd and Ubuntu Community. It is designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.


Main article: BlackBerry
BlackBerry Z10 from 2013
In 1999, RIM released its first BlackBerry devices, providing secure real-time push-email communications on wireless devices. Services such as BlackBerry Messenger provide the integration of all communications into a single inbox. There are 80 million active BlackBerry service subscribers and the 200 millionth BlackBerry smartphone was shipped in September 2012. Most recently, RIM has undergone a platform transition, changing its name to BlackBerry and making new devices on a new platform named "BlackBerry 10."


Main article: Symbian
Symbian was originally developed by Psion as EPOC32. It was the world's most widely used smartphone operating system until Q4 2010, though the platform never gained popularity or widespread awareness in the U.S., as it did in Europe and Asia. The first Symbian phone, the touchscreen Ericsson R380 Smartphone, was released in 2000, and was the first device marketed as a "smartphone". It combined a PDA with a mobile phone. In February 2011, Nokia announced that it would replace Symbian with Windows Phone as the operating system on all of its future smartphones, with the platform getting abandoned throughout the following few years.

Windows Mobile

Main article: Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile was based on the Windows CE kernel and first appeared as the Pocket PC 2000 operating system. Throughout its lifespan, the operating system was available in both touchscreen and non-touchscreen formats. It was supplied with a suite of applications developed with the Microsoft Windows API and was designed to have features and appearance somewhat similar to desktop versions of Windows. Third parties could develop software for Windows Mobile with no restrictions imposed by Microsoft. Software applications were eventually purchasable from Windows Marketplace for Mobile during the service's brief lifespan. Windows mobile was phased out in favor of Windows Phone.

Palm OS

Main article: Palm OS
In late 2001, Handspring launched their own Springboard GSM phone module with limIn. Early 2002, Handspring released the Palm OS Treo smartphone with both a touch screen and a full keyboard. The Treo had wireless web browsing, email, calendar, a contact organizer and mobile third-party applications that could be downloaded or synced with a computer. Handspring was soon acquired by Palm, which released the Treo 600 and continued, though the series eventually took on Windows Mobile. After buying Palm, Inc, in 2011 Hewlett-Packard (HP) finally discontinued its smartphones and tablets production using webOS which is initial developed by Palm, Inc.


Main article: Bada
The Bada operating system for smartphones was announced by Samsung in November 2009. The first Bada-based phone was the Samsung Wave S8500, released in June 2010. Samsung shipped 4.5 million phones running Bada in Q2 of 2011. In 2013, Bada merged with a similar platform called Tizen.

Application stores

The introduction of Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch in July 2008 popularized manufacturer-hosted online distribution for third-party applications (software, computer programs) focused on a single platform. Up until that point, smartphone application distribution depended on third-party sources providing applications for multiple platforms, such as GetJar, Handango, Handmark, and PocketGear.
Following the success of the App Store, other smartphone manufacturers launched application stores, such as Google's Android Market in October 2008 and RIM's BlackBerry App World in April 2009.

Market share

Smartphone usage

In the third quarter of 2012, one billion smartphones were in use worldwide. Global smartphone sales surpassed the sales figures for features phones in early 2013. As of 2013, 65 percent U.S. mobile consumers own smartphones. The European mobile device market as of 2013 is 860 million. In China, smartphones represented more than half of all handset shipments in the second quarter of 2012.
As of November 2011, 27% of all photographs were taken with camera-equipped smartphones. A study conducted in September 2012 concluded that 4 out of 5 smartphone owners use the device to shop. Another study conducted in June 2013 concluded that 56% of American adults now owned a smartphone of some kind. Android and iPhone owners account for half of the cell phone user population. Higher income adults and those under age 35 lead the way when it comes to smartphone ownership.
Worldwide shipments of smartphones topped 1 billion units in 2013 (up 38% from 2012's 725 million) while comprising a 55% share of the mobile phone market in 2013 (up from 42% in 2012).

By manufacturer

Samsung smartphones with Android OS
Worldwide Smartphones Vendor Market Share
Q2, 2014
Q4, 2013
In 2013, Samsung had 31.3 percent shipment market share, a slight increase from 30.3 percent in 2012, while Apple was at 15.3 percent, a decrease from 18.7 percent in 2012. Huawei, LG and Lenovo were at about 5 percent each, significantly better than 2012 figures, while others had about 40 percent, the same as the previous years figure. Only Apple lost market share, although their shipment volume still increased by 12.9 percent; the rest had significant increases in shipment volumes of 36 to 92 percent. In Q1 of 2014, Samsung had a 31% share and Apple had 16%.

By operating system

Main article: Mobile operating system
The market has been dominated by the Android operating system since 2010. Android's market share (measured by units shipment) rose from 33.2% in Q4 2011 to 78.1% of the market in Q4 2013. Apple managed to oscillate their market share between 15% to 20.9% during the same period. BlackBerry's market share fell from 14.3% in Q4 2011 to 0.6% in Q4 2013. MS Windows Mobile market share rose from 1.5% to 3% during the same time frame.
As of the end of Q2 2014, Android was the most popular operating system, with a 84.7% market share, followed by iOS with 11.7%, Windows Phone with 2.5% and BlackBerry with 0.5%.

Historical sales figures (in millions of units)

Android (Google)
iOS (Apple)
Windows Mobile/Phone (Microsoft)
BlackBerry (former RIM)
Symbian (Nokia)
Palm/WebOS (Palm/HP)
Bada (Samsung)
2014 q1
2014 q2


Battery life

A high-capacity portable battery charger
Compared to current generation non-smartphones, smartphone's battery life has generally been poor which has become a significant drain on customer satisfaction.


Obtaining the resources required to create smartphones involves the mining of minerals such as coltan, which are toxic to humans and wildlife. Other raw materials, such as oils, copper, plastics, and solvents, have the potential to contaminate both the soil and groundwater. Smartphones also contain toxic chemicals such as lead, bromine, chlorine, mercury, and cadmium.
The improper recycling of used smartphones damages the environment. Mobile phones can contain dangerous chemicals such as antimony, cadmium, copper, lead, arsenic, nickel and zinc, which can run off into surrounding water bodies or seep into soil contaminating wildlife and drinking water.

Worker conditions

The capacitors in electronics use minerals mined in developing countries. Mines in Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, have been associated with human rights and labor rights violations. Workers, including children, have been forced to work at gunpoint while mining for smartphone materials.
The electronics soldering in smartphones require tin, 30% of which comes from the Indonesian islands of Bangka and Belitung. The tin extraction process has been identified as environmentally destructive and, as of September 2013, children are employed in hazardous conditions to extract tin.


A University of Southern California study found that the unprotected adolescent sexual activity was more common amongst owners of smartphones. A study conducted by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's (RPI) Lighting Research Center (LRC) concluded that smartphones, or any backlit devices, can seriously affect sleep cycles.


A "patent war" between Samsung and Apple started when the latter claimed that the original Galaxy S Android phone copied the interface—and possibly the hardware—of Apple's iOS for the iPhone 3GS.


With the raise in number of mobile medical apps in the market place, government regulatory agencies raised concerns on the safety of the use of such applications. These concerns were transformed into regulation initiatives world wide with the aim of safeguarding users from untrusted medical advice.


Smartphone malware is more easily distributed through application stores that have minimal or no security mechanisms. Often malware is hidden in pirated versions of legitimate apps, which are then distributed through 3rd party app stores. Malware risk also comes from what's known as an "update attack", where a legitimate application is later changed to include a malware component, which users then install when they are notified that the app has been updated.
One out of two robberies involve the theft of a mobile phone. An online petition urging that smartphone makers to install kill switches in their devices is underway.
In order to minimize the chances of being a victim of theft of mobile devices, there have been several apps created to help those out that may be in a dangerous situation. There are now apps that may aid in personal security by providing immediate assistance.


Using smartphones late at night can disturb sleep due to the bright screen light affecting melatonin levels and sleep cycles.

Other terms

"Phablet", a portmanteau of the words phone and tablet, describes smartphones with larger screens.
"Superphone" is also used by some companies to market phones with unusually large screens and other expensive features.

Last updated on 9 November 2014 at 11:33.


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