A smartphone is a handheld personal computer. It possesses extensive computing capabilities, including high-speed access to the Internet using both Wi-Fi and mobile broadband. Most, if not all, smartphones are also built with support for Bluetooth and satellite navigation. Modern smartphones have a touchscreen color display with a graphical user interface that covers the front surface and enables the user to use a virtual keyboard to type and press onscreen icons. Interaction is mostly done using touch, besides a few physical buttons. Smartphones are typically pocket-sized, with somewhat larger sizes being called phablets; they are generally smaller than tablet computers. Smartphones function using a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Smartphones use a mobile operating system and are able to process a variety of software components, known as “apps“. Most basic apps (e.g. event calendar, camera, web browser) come pre-installed with the system, while others are available for download, either for free or charging money to one’s balance, from official sources like the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. One may purchase apps by either adding and using valid credit card account information to the smartphone or by buying a gift card for exclusive use of the balance of the card on its specified app store. Apps, and the operating system itself, can receive bug fixes and gain additional functionality through updates.
Today, smartphones largely fulfil their users’ needs for a microphone (smartphones often have one to four microphones), a digital camera (most smartphones are made with one front-facing and one to three rear-facing integrated digital cameras), a communications device (smartphones can transmit online chat, e-mails, telephone calls and video chat through the Internet by Wi-Fi as well as mobile broadband; a smartphone uses its camera in video chat, as well as its microphone in video chat and telephone calls), a handheld audio recorder (using the microphone), a satellite navigation system and trip planner, weather forecasting, a media player, a clock, news, a calculator, a web browser, a video game player, a flashlight (smartphones may possess one to two LEDs for illumination and photographic flash needs), a compass (smartphones that contain built-in magnetometers are able to function as a compass), an address book, a note creator, an event calendar, etc. Some apps allow sending and receiving facsimile (fax) over a smartphone, including raster facsimile data generated directly and digitally from document and image file formats. Internal storage of 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 or 512 gigabytes, or removable SD card storage, allows for digital storage of software and personal data (including digital photographs and videos). This is often augmented by cloud storage. Internally, many smartphones contain a vibrator, often used as a method of alerting of a notification or call, and as a way to evoke a more vibrant experience while playing video games. Typical smartphones will include one or more of the following sensors: magnetometer, proximity sensor, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer. Since 2010, smartphones have adopted integrated virtual assistants, such as Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, BlackBerry Assistant and Samsung Bixby. Mobile payment is now a feature of most smartphones. Some smartphones have a fingerprint sensor, an iris scanner or face recognition technology as a form of biometric authentication.
In 1999, the Japanese firm NTT DoCoMo released the first smartphones to achieve mass adoption within a country. Smartphones sales started to grow rapidly by the late 2000s. 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.