Updated: 12/10/2023 by Computer Hope
Apple iPhone

A smartphone is a mobile device that combines a PDA (personal digital assistant) and a cellular phone. These devices have enhanced capabilities compared to cell phones; they let you do more than make phone calls and send text messages. Smartphones can browse the Internet and run programs like a computer. They have a touch screen that allows users to interact with over 7 million apps (November 2023), including those for personal and business use, games, social media, online shopping, and more. The picture shows the first version of the Apple iPhone, a popular smartphone.


Smartphone was featured as a top term of 2008.

What can a smartphone do?

Smartphones include features on typical cell phones and others that earn them the "smart" part of their name. Here are many of them:

  • Make and receive phone calls and text messages.
  • Take, show, and store photos and videos.
  • Browse the Internet, and send and receive e-mail.
  • GPS (Global Positioning System) capability for location and navigation.
  • Record and play audio and music.
  • Display time, date, and other functions such as an alarm clock, stopwatch, and timer.
  • Display weather and temperature information.
  • Voice dictation and note-taking.
  • Virtual assistant using Siri, Google Assistant, or Cortana.
  • Access utilities such as a calendar, flashlight, e-book reader, and calculator.
  • Play games with or without friends.
  • Listen to news broadcasts and podcasts.
  • Watch sports games and other streaming video content.
  • Buy and sell stocks or other financial instruments.

More advanced smartphones are now foldable, enabling them to change between smartphone and tablet screen sizes. For example, the Huawei Mate X can unfold to provide an 8-inch screen.

Does a smartphone have an operating system?

Yes. Like a desktop or laptop computer, a smartphone has an operating system, like Windows or macOS. The four most well-known are iOS (developed by Apple), Android (developed by Google), BlackBerry (developed by Research In Motion), and Windows Phone (created by Microsoft but discontinued).

Can I change my smartphone operating system?

You can update the version of a smartphone's operating system, but you cannot change the operating system itself. For example, you cannot put iOS on an Android phone. The reason for this is that the hardware on a smartphone is often specially designed to work with the OS (operating system) currently installed.

What type of storage medium is used in a smartphone?

Smartphones use flash memory to store apps and data. The flash memory is usually built into the phone and isn't removable. Some smartphones include a flash memory card slot (often designed for an SD card), which allows users to utilize additional storage.

When was the first smartphone released?

The first unofficial smartphone was developed by IBM in 1992. It was a prototype device with PDA-like features, including maps, news feeds, and stock quotes. The prototype resulted in an improved version released to the market in 1994, called the Simon Personal Communicator. This device was the first official smartphone, with capabilities to send and receive e-mails, and included apps like an address book, calculator, calendar, and a notepad.


The invention of the smartphone should not be confused with the invention of the cellphone in 1973.

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