Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects simply to a non-technical, business audience. Over…
A mobile phone is a wireless handheld device that allows users to make and receive calls. While the earliest generation of mobile phones could only make and receive calls, today’s mobile phones do a lot more, accommodating web browsers, games, cameras, video players and navigational systems.
Also, while mobile phones used to be mainly known as “cell phones” or cellular phones, today’s mobile phones are more commonly called “smartphones” because of all of the extra voice and data services that they offer.
The first mobile phones, as mentioned, were only used to make and receive calls, and they were so bulky it was impossible to carry them in a pocket. These phones used primitive RFID and wireless systems to carry signals from a cabled PSTN endpoint.
Later, mobile phones belonging to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network became capable of sending and receiving text messages. As these devices evolved, they became smaller and more features were added, such as multimedia messaging service (MMS), which allowed users to send and receive images.
Most of these MMS-capable devices were also equipped with cameras, which allowed users to capture photos, add captions, and send them to friends and relatives who also had MMS-capable phones.
Along with the texting and camera features, cell phones started to be made with a limited capability to access the Internet, known as “data services.” The earliest phone browsers were proprietary and only allowed for the use of a small subsection of the Internet, allowing users to access items like weather, news, and sports updates.
Eventually, phone makers started to engineer these phones to access the entire Internet, and webmasters for all sorts of businesses, government offices and other domain holders started to make web sites responsive to access by mobile phones. The trend, called “responsive design,” changed the face of the Internet, with mobile phone transactions making up a larger share of ecommerce sales and other activities.
A mobile phone typically operates on a cellular network, which is composed of cell sites scattered throughout cities, countrysides and even mountainous regions. If a user happens to be located in an area where there is no signal from any cell site belonging to the cellular network provider he or she is subscribed to, calls cannot be placed or received in that location.
However, the cellular networks used for mobile phones, now called “smartphones” when they encompass modern design, have also evolved. At the same time, the networks used by the smart have also evolved.
First, the 4G telecommunications network pioneered an all-Internet transmission system using things like smart antenna arrays and point-to-point network “fabrics.” While still being called a “cellular network,” 4G relied on IP transmission, rather than traditional telephone circuit switching, which led to certain reception and transmission efficiencies.
Now, a dominant model called 5G is being unrolled throughout the world. The 5G system uses higher frequency waves and a closer cell structure, which changes the networking style and promises greater bandwidth for users.
On the device side, as companies continue to produce newer smartphones, two major operating systems have emerged. The Apple and Android operating systems are installed in the lion’s share of new smartphones by various manufacturers.
With both of these operating system platforms, it has become routine for engineers to build hundreds of different types of functionality into modern smartphones through the design of mobile applications or “apps.” Application stores facilitate the purchase and use of these diverse applications.
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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.
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