Have you wondered what the difference is between a cell phone and a smartphone? The terms are used somewhat interchangeably, but they are in fact quite different products. On a cell phone you can make calls and send texts, and that’s pretty much it; on a smartphone, you can make calls and texts but also perform a whole raft of other operations that used to be exclusive to computers.
Smartphones were first developed using technology from personal digital assistants (PDAs), the mini computers that people used to send and receive emails and keep their diaries. A smartphone essentially combines the standard forms of communication of a cell phone with the internet connectivity of a PDA to form a device that does it all. But what makes a smartphone smart?
The technical side
The central component of a smartphone is the printed circuit board (PCB) that acts as the phone’s brain, controlling all the functions and responding to input from the user. A PCB is a collection of microchips connected together in much the same way as the brain connects to the nervous system in a human body. The combination of chips and connectors that makes up a PCB takes considerable expertise to create, relying upon both the skill of the electronics engineer who’s designing the board and the design software they’re using. The most well-designed PCBs use state of the art design software like Altium’s Circuit Studio to create circuits that function optimally and aren’t vulnerable to the problems of human error.
There’s a lot going on under the surface of a smartphone, based around the operating system that it uses. There are several different operating systems available, but the most well-known and widespread are Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android. These operating systems enable you to download applications, more familiarly known as apps, that add functionality to your smartphone. The range of apps is mind-boggling, and there are very few needs you could come up with that can’t be fulfilled by an app.
There are functional apps such as torches, GPS, and planning tools, and there are games and puzzle activities that provide entertainment via your smartphone. You can also use multimedia apps for watching videos and listening to music, and the commercial apps that allow you to shop online using your smartphone. Internet access is the foundation for many of these functions, and as well as having the ability to connect to safe, wireless networks you can also use the 4G -, and soon 5G services – to connect to the net.
Your smartphone will have a keyboard so you can write emails, messages, or even blog posts on the go. Keyboards can be physical, miniature versions of the QWERTY design, or touch screen versions that appear when needed on the screen. This is far easier and quicker than using a multi-function numeric keypad as you would on a cell phone.
Overall there are many differences between a cell phone and a smartphone, and sales of simple cell phones are declining. Smartphones offer far more to their owners, so if you haven’t upgraded, it’s worth considering treating yourself to a smartphone.