What’s a Smartphone?

A few weeks ago, I was in need of a new cell phone.  My aging cell phone had made its last call.  My current cell phone provider offered me $100 off a new smartphone.  Have you ever wondered what’s a smartphone?  What features make it smart?  How does it differ from a cell phone?

According to Scarborough Research Multimarket Study, 81% of U.S. Hispanics use a cell phone.  Of this number, 67% use a cell phone that is not considered a smartphone.  While 14% use a cell phone that is considered smart. I happened to fall in the 67% group.

So what’s a smartphone?  Based on a few articles I came across, a smartphone not only makes calls but acts like a PDA (personal digital assistance) or even a computer.

To understand what a smartphone is, lets briefly review the history of it.  As you know, cell phones only made phone calls and nothing more (back then). PDAs were used as personal organizers, storing contact information, to-do list and even editing documents.

Eventually, PDAs gained wireless connectivity and were able to send and receive emails. In the meantime, cell phones gained messaging capabilities. PDAs added cellular phone features while cell phones added more PDA like features resulting in what we know today as a smartphone.

How do you know if you have a cell phone or a smartphone?  The following guide provided by About.com helps point out what they define as a smartphone.

Software: Cell phones include some sort of software (even the most basic models these days include an address book or some sort of contact manager, for example), a smartphone will have the ability to do more. It may allow you to create and edit Microsoft Office documents–or at least view the files. It may allow you to download applications, such as personal and business finance managers. Or it may allow you to edit photos, get driving directions vis GPS, and create a playlist of digital tunes.

Web Access: More smartphones can access the Web at higher speeds, thanks to the growth of 3G data networks and the addition of Wi-Fi support to many handsets. Still, while not all smartphones offer high-speed Web access, they all offer some sort of access. You can use your smartphone to browse your favorite sites.

QWERTY Keyboard: By our definition, a smartphone includes a QWERTY keyboard. This means that the keys are laid out in the same manner they would be on your computer keyboard–not in alphabetical order on top of a numeric keypad, where you have to tap the number 1 to enter an A, B, or C. The keyboard can be hardware (physical keys that you type on) or software (on a touch screen, like you’ll find on the iPhone).

Messaging: All cell phones can send and receive text messages, but what sets a smartphone apart is its handling of e-mail. A smartphone can sync with your personal–and, sometimes, your professional–e-mail account. Some smartphones can support multiple e-mail accounts. Others include access to the popular instant messaging services, like AOL’s AIM and Yahoo! Messenger

Do you own a cell phone or a smartphone? What features do you use?

According to Scarborough, U.S. Hispanics are definitely doing other things than just making calls on their phone. The most used feature on a phone is texting.  48% of U.S. Hispanics text while just 43% of non Hispanics text. 14% of them use email on their phone vs. 14% for non Hispanics.  13% use instant messaging features vs. 8% for non Hispanics. Both Hispanics and non Hispanics use maps/GPS navigation features equally at 8%. While 7% of Hispanics use other internet features on their phone vs 7% for non Hispanics.

So the next time you see an ad in the a paper or online, you’ll know what makes a smartphone smart.

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