by : David Wood

Most of us are familiar now with cell phones. They've been around long enough and we've struggled with each new upgrade enough that they no longer mystify and exasperate the average user. So then along comes the smartphone. These go beyond what the typical cell phone can do and often act like computers. In fact, there is not one definition of a smartphone. Some run complete operating-system software and have a standardized interface and platform. In other cases, the smartphone simply has some capabilities that the standard cell phone doesn't have.

According to David Wood of Symbian, "Smart phones differ from ordinary mobile phones in two fundamental ways: how they are built and what they can do." However, nowadays most smartphones use an identifiable operating system such as Windows and usually are able to accept applications such as data processing software. The applications are sometimes developed by the manufacturer of the smartphone or can be made available by a third-party software developer with no connection to the manufacturer.

Most have e-mail capability and a personal organizer. A miniature QWERTY keyboard can be added. Also, some have touchscreens and built-in cameras. Other potential add-ons are contact management software; navigation hardware and software; PDF-reading capability; software for music, browsing photos, and viewing video clips; internet browsers; or secure access to company mail.

IBM developed the first smartphone in 1992 and called it Simon. It was shown as a concept at a computer industry trade show in Las Vegas that year. BellSouth sold it to the public in 1993. In addition to standard cell-phone features, it had a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail, send-and-receive fax, and games. A touchscreen was used on this innovative new phone for selecting phone numbers. Faxes and memos could be created with a stylus using a "predictive" keyboard. Today it would be considered a low-end smartphone.

Nokia got into the smartphone revolution in 1996. Theirs was a palmtop computer and was based on a PDA model by Hewlett Packard and Nokia's best-selling phone. The Nokia 9210 had the first color screen and was the first true smartphone with an open operating system. The 9500 Communicator was Nokia's first cameraphone and first WiFi phone. The latest E90 Communicator has GPS. All of these new Nokias are very expensive.

Research in Motion (RIM) began marketing the first BlackBerry in 2001. It was the first smartphone optimized for wireless e-mail use. It has been very popular.

The first wildly popular smartphones in the United States were the Treo marketed by Handsprings in 2002, which eventually was bought out by Palm. Microsoft also announced its Windows CE Pocket PC OS that same year as Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone 2002.
Nokia's N-Series of 3G smartphones were marketed in 2005 not as mobile phones but as multimedia computers.

Smartphones, the higher end of the camera phone market and having full e-mail support will account for about 10% of the camera phone market in 2008. One billion camera phones will be shipped this year.