Emma Okonji writes on the dominant features embedded in some smartphone technologies, with a view to expanding consumers’ power of choice for today’s smartphones
The demand for smartphones has been on the increase since the first smartphone was launched by Ericsson in 1997, when it described its GS 88 "Penelope" concept as a smartphone.
Since then, several phone manufacturers like Samsung, Blackberry, Nokia, Sony, Infinix, TECNO, among others, have shifted from the traditional cell phones to smartphone manufacturing.
According to a 2012 survey conducted by Canaccord Genuity, around half of the US mobile phone consumers own smartphones and it is estimated that it could account for 70 per cent of all US mobile devices by the end of 2013.
In China, smartphones represented more than 51 per cent of handset shipments in the second quarter of 2012. In Nigeria, the trend in the shift from traditional mobile phones to smartphones is equally on the increase as most Nigerians now carry smartphones, just as phone manufacturers continue to ship manufactured smartphones into the Nigerian mobile phone market.
Several of the smartphones now come with aesthetic designs in sizes, shapes, weights and colours, such that consumers are sometimes confused in their choice of selecting smartpohones that have various features that meet their job and life styles. This piece therefore intends to compare the features of some selected smartphones, with a view to broadening consumers’ choice in the selection of smartphones.
What Smartphone Means
Most people have heard the word smartphone but may not be able to distinguish smartphone from the traditional mobile phones.
In a nutshell, a smartphone is a device that allows the user to make telephone calls, just like the traditional mobile phones. However, the smartphone is different from the traditional mobile phones, because it combines the features of Personal Digital Assistant devices (PDAs), and that of a computer, such as the ability to send and receive e-mail and edit office documents, based on the in-built software.
In the beginning, there were cell phones and PDA devices. The cell phones, which are also known as mobile phones, were used mainly for making calls, while PDA devices were used as personal and portable organisers. The PDA could store contact info and the ‘to-do list’, and could be synchronised with the computer.
Eventually, PDAs gained wireless connectivity and were able to send and receive e-mail, while the cell phones gained messaging capabilities. But with the emergence of smartphone, it combined the features of a PDA and that of the computer and embedded them in a mobile phone. The combination of the technologies in PDAs and computers that are now embedded in a single mobile device is what transformed into today’s smartphones, thus enabling the new device called smartphone, to perform more functions than the traditional cell phones.
A major feature that distinguishes smartphones from traditional cell phones is the operating system (OS), on which the applications run.
In general, a smartphone will be based on an operating system that allows it to run applications. Apple's iPhone for instance runs on the iOS, and BlackBerry smartphones run on the BlackBerry OS. Nokia phone applications run on Symbian OS. Other smartphone devices run on Google's Android OS, HP's webOS, and Microsoft's Windows Phone.
With the combination of technologies, a smartphone will have the ability to do more functions. It allows the user to create and edit documents and as well view various files, and supports download applications, such as personal and business finance managers, handy personal assistants. In fact, it allows the download and upload of almost anything. The software also allows users to edit photos, get driving directions via general packet service (GPS), and create a playlist of digital tunes.
Another key feature of a smartphone is the web access, which allows more smartphones to access the web at higher speeds, thanks to the growth of 4G and 3G data networks as well as the addition of wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) support to many handsets. Although not all smartphones offer high-speed web access, but they all offer some sort of access, that allows users to browse their favourite sites with the smartphone.
The keyboard of smartphones known as Qwerty Keyboard is another key feature of a smartphone.
This means that the keys are laid out in the same manner as that of a computer keyboard, and not in alphabetical order on top of a numeric keypad, where the user will have to tap the number 1 to enter an A, B, or C. The keyboard comes either as hardware (physical keys) or software (on a touch screen), or a combination of both.
All cell phones can send and receive text messages, but what sets a smartphone apart is its handling of e-mail. A smartphone can synchronise with personal professional e-mail accounts. Some smartphones can support multiple e-mail accounts, while others include access to the popular instant messaging services, like the Yahoo Messenger.
Features of Selected Smartphones
In no particular order and without preference of one smartphone over the other, the following smartphones were randomly selected, based on usage. The idea is to expand consumers’ knowledge in their choice of smartphones, when making purchase.
The selected brands include Nokia, Samsung, Blackberry and TECNO.
In 1996, Nokia released the Nokia 9000 smartphone, which was part of the Nokia Communicator line which became their best-selling phone of that time. It was a palmtop computer-style phone combined with PDA from HP technologies. In early prototypes, the two devices were fixed together via a hinge in what came to be described as a clamshell design.
When opened, the display of 640×200 pixels was on the inside top surface and with a physical Qwerty keyboard on the bottom. Email and text-based web browsing was provided via an operating system. Since then, Nokia has come up with various models of Nokia smartphones, but the Asha 200 model is selected for this comparison.
The BlackBerry is a line of wireless handheld devices and services designed and marketed by Research In Motion Limited (RIM) operating as BlackBerry.
The first BlackBerry device, an email pager, was released in 1999, but the most recent BlackBerry devices, the Z10 and Q10, were announced on January 30, 2013. The Blackberry Curve 9220 is selected for comparison.
In 2009, Samsung released its first smartphone that ran on the Google’s operating system and since then the mobile phone company is taking the shine, with the innovation of several models of Samsung smartphones, which include various range of its Samsung Galaxy. This piece compared the Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos smartphone.
TECNO is another brand of smartphone and it has released series of smartphones after TECNO N3 was first released in November 2012, but the comparison is on TECNO Q1, which has unique features and comes with dual SIM like most smartphones.
In terms of telecoms mode, all the smartphones come with the Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) and the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) technologies, except the Blackberry Curve 9220 that comes with on WCDMA technology.
For Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), TECNO has 2.4”/480*320, Nokia Asha 200 has 2.4”/320*240, Blackberry 9220 has 2.44”/320*240, and Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos has 2.”/320*240.
All smartphones come in various sizes but for the camera, the TECNO Q1 has B 5.0/F30, Nokia Asha 200 has B 2.0/None, Blackberry Curve 9220 has B 2.0/None and Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos has B 3.1/F30W.
For the battery life, TECNO Q1 has a battery life of 145 mili-Amps per hour (mAh), Nokia Asha has 1430 mAh, Blackberry Curve 9220 has 1450 mAh and Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos has 1450 mAh.
The Dominant Frequency in TECNO Q1 is MT6575/1Giga Hertz (1GHz), Nokia Asha 200 has 1.0 GHz, Blackberry Curve 9220 has 1.0GHz and Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos has ARM 11/832 Mega Hertz (MHz).
All the smartphones under comparison have flash mechanism for brighter camera resolution, but they come in various capacities. While TECNO Q1 comes with 4Giga Byte (GB) + 512 Mega Byte (MB), Nokia Asha 200 comes with 64 MB + 32 MB. The Blackberry Curve 9220 comes with 512 MB + 512 MB, while the Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos come with 512 MB +384 MB.
Only the Nokia Asha 200 is without in-built Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi Technology), while others have. The essence is for wireless connectivity. Only Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos has GPS, which supports multimedia services, but others do not have.
For the sound production of the smartphones that are being compared, the TECNO Q1 has 3.5mm sound capacity, Nokia Asha 200 has 3.5mm, Blackberry has 3.5mm+loudspeaker, and Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos has 3.5mm+loudspeaker. All the smartphones come with dual SIM card slot, except for Blackberry, which comes with a single SIM card slot
Influence on Customer Choice
All four smartphones fall within the middle-class range, which informed the choice of selection for comparison. From the comparison, it is clear that all the smartphones vary from one feature to another, but some have advantages over others, in terms of their features. Customers’ choice of phone largely depends on the features and aesthetics. TECNO Q1, Nokia Asha 200, Blackberry and Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos, have a lot of features that give customers the power to make choice. Consumers are therefore advised to largely consider features of smartphones, when making choice.