How Smart is Your Cellphone?

Wider broadband service, upgraded networks spurring phone makers to produce ever more powerful devices

By Keith Reed, Globe Staff | September 5, 2005

Is a cellphone 'smart' if it can listen to a song on the radio and identify it for you? How about one that let's you surf the Web, check e-mail,or maybe catch a little news fromCNN while you ride the subway to work?

Just what makes a cellphone a 'smartphone,' anyway?

Since the term became a buzzwordamong cellphone makers and service pro-viders, prevailing wisdom has held that it refers primarily to the slim but blocky PDA-style phones that include keyboards and PC-style operating systems, such as Microsoft's Windows Mobile edition. Those devices not only allow users to make phone calls, but to take advantage of 'smart' data services and do things like access corporate e-mail, send text messages, and even manipulate spreadsheets or run many popular business software applications.

But lately, the defining characteristics of smart phones have shifted, driven by the broader availability of broadband wireless networks that can accommodate audio, video, and other services more popular among everyday users than mobile professionals. Handset makers are building more powerful phones aimed at everyday users, while service providers are spending billions to upgrade their networks, anticipating a surge in demand for services other than voice in the near future.

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