Smartphones are a class of mobile phones and of multi-purpose mobile computing devices. They are distinguished from feature phones by their stronger hardware capabilities and extensive mobile operating systems, which facilitate wider software, internet (including web browsing over mobile broadband), and multimedia functionality (including music, video, cameras, and gaming), alongside core phone functions such as voice calls and text messaging. Smartphones typically include various sensors that can be leveraged by their software, such as a magnetometer, proximity sensors, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer, and support wireless communications protocols such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and satellite navigation.
Early smartphones were marketed primarily towards the enterprise market, attempting to bridge the functionality of standalone personal digital assistant (PDA) devices with support for cellular telephony, but were limited by their bulky form, short battery life, and the immaturity of wireless data services; these issues were eventually resolved with advances in MOSFET (MOS transistor), lithium-ion battery and mobile network technologies. In the 2000s, NTT DoCoMo's i-mode platform, BlackBerry, Nokia's Symbian platform, and Windows Mobile began to gain market traction, with models often featuring QWERTY keyboards or resistive touchscreen input, and emphasizing access to push email and wireless internet. Since the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007, the majority of smartphones have featured thin, slate-like form factors, with large, capacitive screens with support for multi-touch gestures rather than physical keyboards, and offer the ability for users to download or purchase additional applications from a centralized store, and use cloud storage and synchronization, virtual assistants, as well as mobile payment services.
Improved hardware and faster wireless communication (due to standards such as LTE) have bolstered the growth of the smartphone industry. In the third quarter of 2012, one billion smartphones were in use worldwide. Global smartphone sales surpassed the sales figures for feature phones in early 2013.
The development of the smartphone was enabled by advances in MOSFET (metal-oxide-silicon field-effect transistor) semiconductor device fabrication. The MOSFET (MOS transistor), invented by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959, is the basic building block of computing devices such as smartphones. MOSFET scaling, where MOS transistors get smaller with decreasing power consumption, enabled very large-scale integration (VLSI) technology, with MOS transistor counts in integrated circuit chips increasing at an exponential pace, as predicted by Moore's law. Continuous MOSFET scaling eventually made it possible to build portable smart devices such as smartphones during the 1990s–2000s. A typical smartphone is built from billions of tiny MOSFETs as of 2019, used in integrated circuits such as microprocessors and memory chips, as power devices, and as thin-film transistors (TFTs) in mobile displays.
Advances in MOSFET power electronic technology also enabled the development of digital wireless mobile networks, which are essential to the smartphone. The wide adoption of power MOSFET, LDMOS (lateral diffused MOS) and RF CMOS (radio frequency CMOS) devices led to the development and proliferation of digital wireless mobile networks in the 1990s, with further advances in MOSFET technology leading to increasing bandwidth during the 2000s. Most of the essential elements of wireless mobile networks are built from MOSFETs, including the mobile tranceivers, base station modules, routers, RF power amplifiers, telecommunication circuits, RF circuits, and radio transceivers, in networks such as 2G, 3G, and 4G.
The first commercially available device that could be properly referred to as a "smartphone" began as a prototype called "Angler" developed by Frank Canova in 1992 while at IBM and demonstrated in November of that year at the COMDEX computer industry trade show. A refined version was marketed to consumers in 1994 by BellSouth under the name Simon Personal Communicator. In addition to placing and receiving cellular calls, the touchscreen-equipped Simon could send and receive faxes and emails. It included an address book, calendar, appointment scheduler, calculator, world time clock, and notepad, as well as other visionary mobile applications such as maps, stock reports and news.
The IBM Simon was manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric, which integrated features from its own wireless personal digital assistant (PDA) and cellular radio technologies. It featured a liquid-crystal display (LCD) and PC Card support. The Simon was commercially unsuccessful, particularly due to its bulky form factor and limited battery life, using NiCad batteries rather than the nickel–metal hydride batteries commonly used in mobile phones in the 1990's, or lithium-ion batteries used in modern smartphones.
Beginning in the mid-late 1990s, many people who had mobile phones carried a separate dedicated PDA device, running early versions of operating systems such as Palm OS, Newton OS, Symbian or Windows CE/Pocket PC. These operating systems would later evolve into early mobile operating systems. Most of the "smartphones" in this era were hybrid devices that combined these existing familiar PDA OSes with basic phone hardware. The results were devices that were bulkier than either dedicated mobile phones or PDAs, but allowed a limited amount of cellular Internet access. PDA and mobile phone manufacturers competed in reducing the size of devices. The bulk of these smartphones combined with their high cost and expensive data plans, plus other drawbacks such as expansion limitations and decreased battery life compared to separate standalone devices, generally limited their popularity to "early adopters" and business users who needed portable connectivity.
In March 1996, Hewlett-Packard released the OmniGo 700LX, a modified HP 200LX palmtop PC with a Nokia 2110 mobile phone piggybacked onto it and ROM-based software to support it. It had a 640×200 resolution CGA compatible four-shade gray-scale LCD screen and could be used to place and receive calls, and to create and receive text messages, emails and faxes. It was also 100% DOS 5.0 compatible, allowing it to run thousands of existing software titles, including early versions of Windows.
In August 1996, Nokia released the Nokia 9000 Communicator, a digital cellular PDA based on the Nokia 2110 with an integrated system based on the PEN/GEOS 3.0 operating system from Geoworks. The two components were attached by a hinge in what became known as a clamshell design, with the display above and a physical QWERTY keyboard below. The PDA provided e-mail; calendar, address book, calculator and notebook applications; text-based Web browsing; and could send and receive faxes. When closed, the device could be used as a digital cellular telephone.
Subsequent landmark devices included:
The Ericsson R380 (2000) by Ericsson Mobile Communications. The first device marketed as a "smartphone", it was the first Symbian-based phone, with PDA functionality and limited Web browsing on a resistive touchscreen utilizing a stylus. Users could not install their own software on the device, however.
The Kyocera 6035 (early 2001), a dual-nature device with a separate Palm OS PDA operating system and CDMA mobile phone firmware. It supported limited Web browsing with the PDA software treating the phone hardware as an attached modem.
Handspring's Treo 180 (2002), the first smartphone that fully integrated the Palm OS on a GSM mobile phone having telephony, SMS messaging and Internet access built into the OS. The 180 model had a thumb-type keyboard and the 180g version had a Graffiti handwriting recognition area, instead.
Japanese cell phones
In 1999, Japanese wireless provider NTT DoCoMo launched i-mode, a new mobile internet platform which provided data transmission speeds up to 9.6 kilobits per second, and access web services available through the platform such as online shopping. 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 use the slower data speeds available. The rise of i-mode helped NTT DoCoMo accumulate an estimated 40 million subscribers by the end of 2001, and ranked first in market capitalization in Japan and second globally. Japanese cell phones increasingly diverged from global standards and trends to offer other forms of advanced services and smartphone-like functionality that were specifically tailored to the Japanese market, such as mobile payments and shopping, near-field communication (NFC) allowing mobile wallet functionality to replace smart cards for transit fares, loyalty cards, identity cards, event tickets, coupons, money transfer, etc., downloadable content like musical ringtones, games, and comics, and 1seg mobile television. Phones built by Japanese manufacturers used custom firmware, however, and didn't yet feature standardized mobile operating systems designed to cater to third-party application development, so their software and ecosystems were akin to very advanced feature phones. As with other feature phones, additional software and services required partnerships and deals with providers.
The degree of integration between phones and carriers, unique phone features, non-standardized platforms, and tailoring to Japanese culture made it difficult for Japanese manufacturers to export their phones, especially when demand was so high in Japan that the companies didn't feel the need to look elsewhere for additional profits.
The rise of 3G technology in other markets and non-Japanese phones with powerful standardized smartphone operating systems, app stores, and advanced wireless network capabilities allowed non-Japanese phone manufacturers to finally break in to the Japanese market, gradually adopting Japanese phone features like emojis, mobile payments, NFC, etc. and spreading them to the rest of the world.
Phones that made effective use of any significant data connectivity were still rare outside Japan until the introduction of the Danger Hiptop in 2002, which saw moderate success among U.S. consumers as the T-Mobile Sidekick. Later, in the mid-2000s, business users in the U.S. started to adopt devices based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile, and then BlackBerry smartphones from Research In Motion. American users popularized the term "CrackBerry" in 2006 due to the BlackBerry's addictive nature. In the U.S., the high cost of data plans and relative rarity of devices with Wi-Fi capabilities that could avoid cellular data network usage kept adoption of smartphones mainly to business professionals and "early adopters."
Outside the U.S. and Japan, Nokia was seeing success with its smartphones based on Symbian, originally developed by Psion for their personal organisers, and it was the most popular smartphone OS in Europe during the middle to late 2000s. Initially, Nokia's Symbian smartphones were focused on business with the Eseries, similar to Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices at the time. From 2006 onwards, Nokia started producing consumer-focused smartphones, popularized by the entertainment-focused Nseries. Until 2010, Symbian was the world's most widely used smartphone operating system.
Form factor and operating system shifts
The touchscreen PDA-derived nature of adapted operating systems like Palm OS, the "Pocket PC" versions of what was later Windows Mobile, and the UIQ interface that was originally designed for pen-based PDAs on Symbian OS devices resulted in some early smartphones having stylus-based interfaces. These allowed for virtual keyboards and/or handwriting input, thus also allowing easy entry of Asian characters.
By the mid-2000s, the majority of smartphones had a physical QWERTY keyboard. Most used a "keyboard bar" form factor, like the BlackBerry line, Windows Mobile smartphones, Palm Treos, and some of the Nokia Eseries. A few hid their full physical QWERTY keyboard in a sliding form factor, like the Danger Hiptop line. Some even only had a numeric keypad using T9 text input, like the Nokia Nseries and other models in the Nokia Eseries. Resistive touchscreens with stylus-based interfaces could still be found on a few smartphones, like the Palm Treos, which had dropped their handwriting input after a few early models that were available in versions with Grafitti instead of a keyboard.
The late 2000s and early 2010s saw a shift in smartphone interfaces away from devices with physical keyboards and keypads to ones with large finger-operated capacitive touchscreens.
In January 2007 Apple Computer introduced the iPhone. It had a 3.5" capacitive touchscreen with twice the common resolution of most smartphone screens at the time, and introduced multi-touch to phones, which allowed gestures such as "pinching" to zoom in or out on photos, maps, and web pages. The iPhone was notable as being the first device of its kind targeted at the mass market to abandon the use of a stylus, keyboard, or keypad typical of contemporary smartphones, instead using a large touchscreen for direct finger input as its main means of interaction.
The iPhone's operating system was also a shift away from previous ones adapted from PDAs and feature phones that could only use limited, stripped down web browsers requiring pages specially formatted using technologies such as WML, cHTML, or XHTML. Instead it had an OS adapted from a desktop operating system that was able to easily drive its large touchscreen and run a version of Apple's Safari browser that could render full websites not specifically designed for phones.
Later Apple shipped a software update that gave the iPhone a built-in on-device App Store allowing direct wireless downloads of third-party software. This kind of centralized App Store and free developer tools quickly became the new main paradigm for all smartphone platforms for software development, distribution and installation, in place of expensive developer tools that required official approval to use and a dependence on third-party sources providing applications for multiple platforms.
The advantages of a design with software powerful enough to support advanced applications and a large capacitive touchscreen affected the development of another smartphone OS platform, Android, with a more BlackBerry-like prototype device scrapped in favor of a touchscreen device with a slide-out physical keyboard, as Google's engineers thought at the time that a touchscreen could not completely replace a physical keyboard and buttons. Android is based around a modified Linux kernel, again providing more power than mobile operating systems adapted from PDAs and feature phones. The first Android device, the HTC Dream, was released in September 2008, with both a 3.2" capacitive touchscreen and a hardware keyboard that was revealed when the user slid the screen open. By 2010 the majority of Android phones were touchscreen-only.
The iPhone and later touchscreen-only Android devices together popularized the smartphone form factor based on a large capacitive touchscreen as the sole means of interaction, and led to the decline of earlier, keyboard- and keypad-focused platforms. Other smartphone manufacturers soon started projects to replace their existing operating systems with new ones that could support touch interfaces on larger screens and web browsers that could render full web pages. Microsoft, for instance, discontinued Windows Mobile and started a new touchscreen-oriented OS from scratch, called Windows Phone. Nokia abandoned Symbian and partnered with Microsoft to use Windows Phone on its smartphones. Palm replaced their Palm OS with webOS. BlackBerry Limited, formerly known as Research In Motion and known for phones with a full qwerty keyboard below the screen, made a new platform for touchscreen phones based on QNX, BlackBerry 10.
By the mid-2010s, almost all smartphones were touchscreen-only and had discarded legacy mobile operating systems for more recently developed ones that were more powerful.
Developments in the 2010s
In the early 2010s, larger smartphones with screen sizes of at least 5.5 inches diagonal, dubbed "phablets", began to achieve popularity, with the Samsung Galaxy Note series gaining notably wide adoption. In 2013, Huawei launched the Huawei Mate series and it sports a 6.1-inch HD (1280 x 720) IPS+ LCD display, which was considered to be quite large back in the day.
In 2013, Fairphone launched its first "socially ethical" smartphone at the London Design Festival to address concerns regarding the sourcing of materials in the manufacturing followed by Shiftphone in 2015. In late 2013, QSAlpha commenced production of a smartphone designed entirely around security, encryption and identity protection. Some companies began to release smartphones incorporating flexible displays to create curved form factors, such as the Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex.
In October 2013, Motorola Mobility announced Project Ara, a concept for a modular smartphone platform that would allow users to customize and upgrade their phones with add-on modules that attached magnetically to a frame. Ara was retained by Google following its sale of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo, but was shelved in 2016. That year, LG and Motorola both unveiled smartphones featuring a limited form of modularity for accessories; the LG G5 allowed accessories to be installed via the removal of its battery compartment, while the Moto Z utilizes accessories attached magnetically to the rear of the device.
By 2014, 1440p displays began to appear on high-end smartphones. In 2015, Sony released the Xperia Z5 Premium, featuring a 4K resolution display, although only images and videos could actually be rendered at that resolution (all other software is upscaled from 1080p). Microsoft, expanding upon the concept of Motorola's short-lived "Webtop", unveiled functionality for its Windows 10 operating system for phones that allows supported devices to be docked for use with a PC-styled desktop environment. Other major technologies began to trend in 2016, including a focus on virtual reality and augmented reality experiences catered towards smartphones, the newly introduced USB-C connector, and improving LTE technologies. As of 2015, the global median for smartphone ownership was 43%. Statista forecast that 2.87 billion people would own smartphones in 2020.
New trends for smartphone displays began to emerge in 2017, with both LG and Samsung releasing flagship smartphones utilizing displays with taller aspect ratios than the common 16:9 ratio. These designs allow the display to have a larger diameter, but with a slimmer width than 16:9 displays with an equivalent screen size. Another trend popularized that year were displays that contained tab-like cut-outs at their top-centre—colloquially known as a "notch"—to contain the front-facing camera, and sometimes other sensors typically located along the top bezel of a device. These designs allow for "edge-to-edge" displays that take up nearly the entire height of the device, with little to no bezel along the top. This design characteristic was popularized by the Essential Phone (which featured a circular tab for its camera) and iPhone X (which used a wider tab to contain a camera and facial scanning system). In 2018, the first smartphones featuring fingerprint readers embedded within OLED displays were announced, followed in 2019 by an implementation using an ultrasonic sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S10. In 2019, 4.7-inches to 5.5 inches have become the industry standard size, with most companies abandoning smaller, under 4.7-inch displays.
Smartphones with foldable displays were theorized as possible once manufacturing costs and production processes were feasible. In November 2018, the startup company Royole unveiled the first commercially available foldable smartphone, the Royole FlexPai. Also that month, Samsung presented a prototype phone featuring an "Infinity Flex Display" at its developers conference, with a smaller, outer display on its "cover", and a larger, tablet-sized display when opened. Samsung stated that it also had to develop a new polymer material to coat the display as opposed to glass. Early examples of foldable phones from other manufacturers became the subject of rumors in early 2019; Samsung officially announced the Galaxy Fold, based on the previously-demonstrated prototype, in February 2019 for an originally-scheduled release in late-April.
Convergence with other devices
The rise in popularity of touchscreen smartphones and mobile apps distributed via app stores along with rapidly advancing network, mobile processor, and storage technologies led to a convergence where separate mobile phones, organizers, and portable media players were replaced by a smartphone as the single device most people carried.
Advances in digital camera sensors and on-device image processing software more gradually led to smartphones replacing simpler cameras for photographs and video recording. The built-in GPS capabilites and mapping apps on smartphones largely replaced stand-alone satellite navigation devices, and paper maps became less common. Mobile gaming on smartphones greatly grew in popularity, allowing many people to use them in place of handheld game consoles, and some companies tried creating game console/phone hybrids based on phone hardware and software. People frequently have chosen not to get fixed-line telephone service in favor of smartphones. Music streaming apps and services have grown rapidly in popularity, serving the same use as listening to music stations on a terrestrial or satellite radio. Streaming video services are easily accessed via smartphone apps and can be used in place of watching television. People have often stopped wearing wristwatches in favor of checking the time on their smartphones, and many use the clock features on their phones in place of alarm clocks.
Additionally, in many regions smartphones are people's first and only means of Internet access, with personal computers being relatively uncommon outside of business use. The cameras on smartphones can be used to photograph documents and send them via email or messaging in place of using fax (facsimile) machines. Payment apps and services on smartphones allow people to make less use of wallets, purses, credit and debit cards, and cash. Mobile banking apps can allow people to deposit checks simply by photographing them, eliminating the need to take the physical check to an ATM or teller. Guide book apps can take the place of paper travel and restaurant/business guides, museum brochures, and dedicated audio guide equipment.
Central processing unit
Smartphones have central processing units (CPUs), similar to those in computers, but optimised to operate in low power environments.
The performance of mobile CPU depends not only on the clock rate (generally given in multiples of hertz) but also on the memory hierarchy. Because of these challenges, the performance of mobile phone CPUs is often more appropriately given by scores derived from various standardized tests to measure the real effective performance in commonly used applications.
One of the main characteristics of smartphones is the screen. Depending on the device's design, the screen fills most or nearly all of the space on a device's front surface. Many smartphone displays have an aspect ratio of 16:9, but taller aspect ratios became more common in 2017.
Screen sizes are measured in diagonal inches. Phones with screens larger than 5.2 inches are often called "phablets". Smartphones with screens over 4.5 inches in size are commonly difficult to use with only a single hand, since most thumbs cannot reach the entire screen surface; they may need to be shifted around in the hand, held in one hand and manipulated by the other, or used in place with both hands. Due to design advances, some modern smartphones with large screen sizes and "edge-to-edge" designs have compact builds that improve their ergonomics, while the shift to taller aspect ratios have resulted in phones that have larger screen sizes whilst maintaining the ergonomics associated with smaller 16:9 displays.
Some audio quality enhancing features, such as Voice over LTE and HD Voice have appeared and are often available on newer smartphones. Sound quality can remain a problem due to the design of the phone, the quality of the cellular network and compression algorithms used in long distance calls. Audio quality can be improved using a VoIP application over WiFi. Cellphones have small speakers so that the user can use a speakerphone feature and talk to a person on the phone without holding it to their ear. The small speakers can also be used to listen to digital audio files of music or speech or watch videos with an audio component, without holding the phone close to the ear.
Smartphone users purchase additional chargers for use outside the home, at work, and in cars and by buying portable external "battery packs". External battery packs include generic models which are connected to the smartphone with a cable, and custom-made models that "piggyback" onto a smartphone's case. In 2016, Samsung had to recall millions of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones due to an explosive battery issue. For consumer convenience, wireless charging stations have been introduced in some hotels, bars, and other public spaces.
A wide range of accessories are sold for smartphones, including cases, screen protectors, power charging cables, wireless power stations, USB On-The-Go adapters (for connecting USB drives and or, in some cases, a HDMI cable to an external monitor), add-on batteries, headphones, combined headphone-microphones (which, for example, allow a person to privately conduct calls on the device without holding it to the ear), and Bluetooth-enabled powered speakers that enable users to listen to media from their smartphones wirelessly.
Cases range from relatively inexpensive rubber or soft plastic cases which provide moderate protection from bumps and good protection from scratches to more expensive, heavy-duty cases that combine a rubber padding with a hard outer shell. Some cases have a "book"-like form, with a cover that the user opens to use the device; when the cover is closed, it protects the screen. Some "book"-like cases have additional pockets for credit cards, thus enabling people to use them as wallets.
Accessories include products sold by the manufacturer of the smartphone and compatible products made by other manufacturers.
Mobile operating systems
Mobile operating systems combine features of a personal computer operating system with other features useful for mobile or handheld use; usually including, and most of the following considered essential in modern mobile systems; a touchscreen, cellular, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Protected Access, Wi-Fi, Global Positioning System (GPS) mobile navigation, video- and single-frame picture cameras, speech recognition, voice recorder, music player, near field communication, and infrared blaster. By Q1 2018, over 383 million smartphones were sold with 85.9 percent running Android, 14.1 percent running iOS and a negligible number of smartphones running other OSes. Android alone is more popular than the popular desktop operating system Windows, and in general smartphone use (even without tablets) exceeds desktop use.
Mobile devices with mobile communications abilities (e.g., smartphones) contain two mobile operating systems – the main user-facing software platform is supplemented by a second low-level proprietary real-time operating system which operates the radio and other hardware. Research has shown that these low-level systems may contain a range of security vulnerabilities permitting malicious base stations to gain high levels of control over the mobile device.
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 and computer programs) focused on a single platform. There are a huge variety of apps, including video games, music products and business tools. 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 (later renamed to the Google Play Store) and RIM's BlackBerry App World and Android-related app stores like F-Droid. In February 2014, 93% of mobile developers were targeting smartphones first for mobile app development.
Since 1996, smartphone shipments have had positive growth. In November 2011, 27% of all photographs created were taken with camera-equipped smartphones. In September 2012, a study concluded that 4 out of 5 smartphone owners use the device to shop online. Global smartphone sales surpassed the sales figures for feature phones in early 2013. 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. In Q1 2016 for the first time the shipments dropped by 3 percent year on year. The situation was caused by the maturing China market.
In 2011, Samsung had the highest shipment market share worldwide, followed by Apple. In 2013, Samsung had 31.3% market share, a slight increase from 30.3% in 2012, while Apple was at 15.3%, a decrease from 18.7% in 2012. Huawei, LG and Lenovo were at about 5% each, significantly better than 2012 figures, while others had about 40%, the same as the previous years figure. Only Apple lost market share, although their shipment volume still increased by 12.9%; the rest had significant increases in shipment volumes of 36–92%. In Q1 2014, Samsung had a 31% share and Apple had 16%. In Q4 2014, Apple had a 20.4% share and Samsung had 19.9%. In Q2 2016, Samsung had a 22.3% share and Apple had 12.9%. In Q1 2017, IDC reported that Samsung was first placed, with 80 million units, followed by Apple with 50.8 million, Huawei with 34.6 million, Oppo with 25.5 million and Vivo with 22.7 million.
By operating system
A 2012 University of Southern California study found that unprotected adolescent sexual activity was more common among 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. Some persons might become psychologically attached to smartphones resulting in anxiety when separated from the devices. A "smombie" (a combination of "smartphone" and "zombie") is a walking person using a smartphone and not paying attention as they walk, possibly risking an accident in the process, an increasing social phenomenon. The issue of slow-moving smartphone users led to the temporary creation of a "mobile lane" for walking in Chongqing, China. The issue of distracted smartphone users led the city of Augsburg, Germany to embed pedestrian traffic lights in the pavement.
Mobile banking and payment
In many countries, mobile phones are used to provide mobile banking services, which may include the ability to transfer cash payments by secure SMS text message. Kenya's M-PESA mobile banking service, for example, allows customers of the mobile phone operator Safaricom to hold cash balances which are recorded on their SIM cards. Cash can be deposited or withdrawn from M-PESA accounts at Safaricom retail outlets located throughout the country and can be transferred electronically from person to person and used to pay bills to companies.
Another application of mobile banking technology is Zidisha, a US-based nonprofit micro-lending platform that allows residents of developing countries to raise small business loans from Web users worldwide. Zidisha uses mobile banking for loan disbursements and repayments, transferring funds from lenders in the United States to borrowers in rural Africa who have mobile phones and can use the Internet.
Mobile payments were first trialled in Finland in 1998 when two Coca-Cola vending machines in Espoo were enabled to work with SMS payments. Eventually, the idea spread and in 1999, the Philippines launched the country's first commercial mobile payments systems with mobile operators Globe and Smart.
Some mobile phones can make mobile payments via direct mobile billing schemes, or through contactless payments if the phone and the point of sale support near field communication (NFC). Enabling contactless payments through NFC-equipped mobile phones requires the co-operation of manufacturers, network operators, and retail merchants.
Mobile phone use while driving—including calling, text messaging, playing media, web browsing, gaming, using mapping apps or operating other phone features—is common but controversial, since it is widely considered dangerous due to what is known as distracted driving. Being distracted while operating a motor vehicle has been shown to increase the risk of accidents. In September 2010, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 995 people were killed by drivers distracted by phones. In March 2011 a US insurance company, State Farm Insurance, announced the results of a study which showed 19% of drivers surveyed accessed the Internet on a smartphone while driving. Many jurisdictions prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving. In Egypt, Israel, Japan, Portugal and Singapore, both handheld and hands-free calling on a mobile phone (which uses a speakerphone) is banned. In other countries including the UK and France and in many US states, only the use of calling on handheld phones is banned, while hands-free use is permitted.
A 2011 study reported that over 90% of college students surveyed text (initiate, reply or read) while driving. The scientific literature on the danger of driving while sending a text message from a mobile phone, or texting while driving, is limited. A simulation study at the University of Utah found a sixfold increase in distraction-related accidents when texting. Due to the complexity of smartphones that began to grow more after, this has introduced additional difficulties for law enforcement officials when attempting to distinguish one usage from another in drivers using their devices. This is more apparent in countries which ban both handheld and hands-free usage, rather than those which ban handheld use only, as officials cannot easily tell which function of the phone is being used simply by looking at the driver. This can lead to drivers being stopped for using their device illegally for a call when, in fact, they were using the device legally, for example, when using the phone's incorporated controls for car stereo, GPS or satnav.
A 2010 study reviewed the incidence of phone use while cycling and its effects on behavior and safety. In 2013 a national survey in the US reported the number of drivers who reported using their phones to access the Internet while driving had risen to nearly one of four. A study conducted by the University of Vienna examined approaches for reducing inappropriate and problematic use of mobile phones, such as using phones while driving.
Accidents involving a driver being distracted by being in a call on a phone have begun to be prosecuted as negligence similar to speeding. In the United Kingdom, from 27 February 2007, motorists who are caught using a handheld phone while driving will have three penalty points added to their license in addition to the fine of £60. This increase was introduced to try to stem the increase in drivers ignoring the law. Japan prohibits all use of phones while driving, including use of hands-free devices. New Zealand has banned handheld phone use since 1 November 2009. Many states in the United States have banned text messaging on phones while driving. Illinois became the 17th American state to enforce this law. As of July 2010, 30 states had banned texting while driving, with Kentucky becoming the most recent addition on July 15.
Public Health Law Research maintains a list of distracted driving laws in the United States. This database of laws provides a comprehensive view of the provisions of laws that restrict the use of mobile devices while driving for all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1992, when first law was passed through December 1, 2010. The dataset contains information on 22 dichotomous, continuous or categorical variables including, for example, activities regulated (e.g., texting versus talking, hands-free versus handheld calls, web browsing, gaming), targeted populations, and exemptions.
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. There was also smartphone patents licensing and litigation involving Sony Mobile, Google, Apple Inc., Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, Huawei and ZTE, among others. The conflict is part of the wider "patent wars" between multinational technology and software corporations. To secure and increase market share, companies granted a patent can sue to prevent competitors from using the methods the patent covers. Since the 2010s the number of lawsuits, counter-suits, and trade complaints based on patents and designs in the market for smartphones, and devices based on smartphone OSes such as Android and iOS, has increased significantly. Initial suits, countersuits, rulings, license agreements, and other major events began in 2009 as the smartphone market stated to grow more rapidly by 2012.
Some apps allows for sending and receiving facsimile (Fax), over a smartphone, including facsimile data (composed of raster bi-level graphics) generated directly and digitally from document and image file formats.
With the rise 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 worldwide with the aim of safeguarding users from untrusted medical advice.
Smartphone malware is easily distributed through an insecure app store. Often, malware is hidden in pirated versions of legitimate apps, which are then distributed through third-party app stores. Malware risk also comes from what is 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. As well, one out of three robberies in 2012 in the United States involved the theft of a mobile phone. An online petition has urged smartphone makers to install kill switches in their devices. In 2014, Apple's "Find my iPhone" and Google's "Android Device Manager" can locate, disable, and wipe the data from phones that have been lost or stolen. With BlackBerry Protect in OS version 10.3.2, devices can be rendered unrecoverable to even BlackBerry's own Operating System recovery tools if incorrectly authenticated or dissociated from their account.
Leaked documents published by WikiLeaks, codenamed Vault 7 and dated from 2013–2016, detail the capabilities of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to perform electronic surveillance and cyber warfare, including the ability to compromise the operating systems of most smartphones (including iOS and Android).
Using smartphones late at night can disturb sleep, due to the blue light and brightly lit screen, which affects melatonin levels and sleep cycles. In an effort to alleviate these issues, several apps that change the color temperature of a screen to a warmer hue based on the time of day to reduce the amount of blue light generated have been developed for Android, while iOS 9.3 integrated similar, system-level functionality known as "Night Shift". Amazon released a feature known as "blue shade" in their Fire OS "Bellini" 5.0 and later. It has also been theorized that for some users, addicted use of their phones, especially before they go to bed, can result in "ego depletion". Many people also use their phones as alarm clocks, which can also lead to loss of sleep.
Pocket cameras have difficulty producing bokeh in images, but nowadays, some smartphones have dual-lens cameras that produce the bokeh effect easily, and can even rearrange the level of bokeh after shooting. The iPhone 7 Plus debuted with a dual-lens camera in the back of the smartphone. More advanced smartphones may come with 'quad cameras', or two dual-lens cameras such as the Honor 9 Lite smartphone. The back and front of the smartphone each have a 13MP main lens and a 2MP lens for capturing depth information. The Evercoss U50A Max smartphone has 4 cameras, and costs less than $100.
Huawei P20 Pro smartphone with triple lenses in the back of the smartphone has been launched as bokeh camera smartphone with optical zoom. First lens has 40MP RGB, second lens has 20MP monochrome and third lens has 8MP RGB telephoto 3x. The zoom can be enhanced to 5x with combination of the optical zoom and megapixel lens 40MP RGB to produce undeteriorated (optical+digital) zoom or digital zoom without loss of quality.
Comparison of smartphones
Lists of mobile computers
List of mobile software distribution platforms
Media Transfer Protocol
Mobile Internet device
Portable media player
Secure Our Smartphones