What Smartphones Can Do

By Travis Meyer

A mother is showing her smartphone to her son.
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Quickly surpassing the popularity of traditional cellular handsets, smartphones are the fastest growing mobile industry in the western world. Developing out of PDA technology, smartphones incorporate personal organizing functions with full media support and communications technologies. As cellular providers such as Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T continually expand their network coverage and enhance the speed of their services, so too have developers jumped to produce useful applications to download on smartphone devices.

Full HTML Browsing

While more advanced models of traditional cellular handsets featured limited Internet browsing, contemporary smartphones offer complete rendering of Web-based HTML documents, allowing you to browse websites as you would on your computer. Browsing functions differ depending on the model of smartphone, but in most cases, scrolling is achieved through swiping your finger against the touch screen and clicking links by tapping the hyperlinked letters.

Video Streaming

With larger screens and increased resolutions, the newest smartphone models are getting better at streaming online video content and purchased videos downloaded from Internet-based vendors. Thanks to faster mobile networks, smartphones are capable of streaming both HTML 5 and Flash video, allowing you to watch short films on sites like Youtube.com and Vimeo.com. Additionally, smartphones like the iPhone and handsets running Android allow you to upload video from your computer using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or USB connector cables.

GPS Navigation

The receiver on most smartphone models allows the device to pinpoint its location on a map with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. By using either native or third-party applications, smartphones also are capable of mapping their location on the touch screen, showing road names, landmarks and topography. In some cases, depending on the application, devices are even able to display real-time traffic congestion. Depending on the handset model and the operating system, smartphones can also read directions to you, providing you with hands-free navigation while driving.

Third-Party Applications

The two fastest growing smart-phone operating systems, iOS and Android, provide an extensive marketplace for buying and downloading third-party applications. Also called "apps," applications support any number of functions, from simple handheld video games to instant language translation. Although not all mobile operating systems support third-party application development, native applications available on operating systems like Symbian and Windows Phone offer similar functions as their open-source counterparts.