What Is a Smartphone
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Manage Voice Calls

Despite all the digital gadgetry and data applications, for most users, the smartphone is still a mobile phone. Making voice phone calls is still the number one use of smartphones. A lot of smartphone features are focused on making phone calls easier. For instance, you can use the smartphone user interface to manage multiple concurrent calls or conference calls on the phone; change the ringing option, including ringtones and alert images, based on the caller or the caller group; record phone calls to digital files and save them to computers; and make phone calls directly from wireless internet web pages.

Third-party software programs for call management are also widely available for smartphones. For instance, some programs allow you to change phone ringing options based on your location; other programs track minutes usage in your calling plan, with support for peak hours, family-free numbers, nonstandard billing periods, and so on.

Enhance the Computer

Most of us already have laptop or tablet computers. Why do we need to carry another minicomputer, the smartphone, with us? Well, it turns out that a smartphone can nicely complement the computer you already have. The computer connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth or data cables.

For instance, you can use the smartphone to exchange business cards with other people in a meeting and easily synchronize them to the computer. The computer can use the smartphone as a data modem and share the wireless internet connection when WiFi is not available. With the right software, the smartphone can be used as a remote control for the computer during presentations or media playback.

Increase Productivity

With many business applications available on the smartphone, you can significantly increase your productivity while you are traveling or away from your office. The most obvious business productivity application on the phone is email. A smartphone can access email via a variety of methods, including standard SMTP/POP servers, corporate email servers, or mobile messaging proxy services. Email attachments for common corporate documents, such as Word and Excel documents, are also supported (both read and write). Smartphone email clients can meet business users' very diverse email needs.

The smartphone also helps you stay on instant messaging (IM) services. You can stay connected with your AOL, Yahoo, and MSN buddies while you are on the go. For email and messaging applications, an easy-to-use keyboard is essential. Some smartphones have built-in thumb keyboards or can work with portable Bluetooth keyboards, as long as the appropriate software driver is installed. Even for the numerical keypad-only smartphones, the device software can assist text input with support for predictive input methods like T9, and text cut/paste across applications.

Access Web 2.0

Smartphones can access not only WAP contents on the wireless internet, but also regular HTML web sites. A smartphone typically has relatively large and color screens to render web contents. Smartphone browsers (e.g., the Opera browser) can automatically reformat the HTML page for small screen display. But perhaps even more important is that smartphones can access Web 2.0 contents such as blogs, RSS, podcasting, P2P social networks, etc. For instance, you can post stories to your own blog or podcasting site at the time when the story happens, and read other people's P2P contents to stay updated all the time. To parse RSS and other Web 2.0 contents on the smartphone, you would probably need to install additional software or work with special mobile gateway servers.

Integrate Location Information

Location-based services are touted as the next killer application for mobile computing. A smartphone can obtain its current location by integrating a GPS receiver or connecting to existing portable GPS receivers. If a GPS is not available, some smartphones can obtain location information by triangulating nearby cellular service towers, or simply identifying the cell ID of the current service tower. Using the location information, you can tag your blog/photo postings with your location, search businesses or points of interests in your vicinity, get driving directions, or even change the phone's settings automatically depending on where you are (e.g., when you are at home, the phone would not ring when your boss calls).

Another type of location service is the ability to form ad hoc local networks. Using Bluetooth technology, some smartphone applications allow you to detect people in your vicinity and you can initiate a personal contact when someone's published profile meets your interests. Some businesses (e.g., retail stores) have Bluetooth services to send coupons or even multimedia contents to your smartphone while you are visiting.

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