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Introduction to Mobile Devices

Today's mobile devices are multi-functional devices capable of hosting a broad range of applications for both business and consumer use.

Today's mobile devices are multifunctional devices capable of hosting a broad range of applications for both business and consumer use. Smart phones and tablets allow people to access the Internet for email, instant messaging, text messaging and Web browsing, as well as work documents, contact lists and more.

Mobile devices are often seen as an extension to your own PC.  Work done on the road, or away from the office can be synchronized with your PC to reflect changes and new information.

Types of Mobile Computing Devices

The term mobile device is used to mean a wide range of consumer electronics. Usually mobile device is used to describe the devices that can connect to the Internet. However, some will classify digital cameras and standard MP3 players as mobile devices as well. The category of mobile devices include the following devices, as well as others:

Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)

(sometimes called pocket computers) PDAs are handheld devices that combine elements of computing, telephone/fax, Internet and networking in a single device. A typical PDA can function as a cellular phone, fax sender, Web browser and personal organizer. Unlike portable computers, most PDAs began as pen-based, using a stylus rather than a keyboard for input. This means that they also incorporated handwriting recognition features. Some PDAs can also react to voice input by using voice recognition technologies. PDAs of today are available in either a stylus or keyboard version (called a datapad).

Examples of PDA Devices: Palm Pilot, Revo, Sony Clie, Hewlett-Packard Jornado, Casio Cassiopedia, Compaq iPaq, Toshiba Pocket PC


Smartphonescombine both mobile phone and handheld computers into a single device. Smartphones allow users to store information (e.g., e-mail), install programs, along with using a mobile phone in one device. For example, a Smartphone could be a mobile phone with some PDA functions integrated into the device or vise versa.

Examples of Smartphones: Sony Ericsson, Palm Treo, Blackberry, Nokia T-Mobile Sidekick, Torq, Motorola Q, E-Ten, HP iPaq, I-mate,

Tablet PC

Tablet PCs are a type of notebook computer that has an LCD screen on which you can write using a stylus. The handwriting is digitized and can be converted to standard text through handwriting recognition, or it can remain as handwritten text. The stylus also can be used to type on a pen-based key layout where the lettered keys are arranged differently than a QWERTY keyboard. Tablet PCs also typically have a keyboard and/or a mouse for input.

Examples of Table PCs: Samsung Q1, Toshiba Portege, Fujitsu Lifebook, Motion Computing, IBM Thinkpad

Mobile Operating Systems (Mobile OS)

Like a computer operating system, a mobile operating systemis the software platform on top of which other programs run. When you purchase a mobile device, the manufacturer will have chosen the operating system for that specific device. The operating system is responsible for determining the functions and features available on your device, such as thumbwheel, keyboards, WAP, synchronization with applications, e-mail, text messaging and more. The mobile operating system will also determine which third-party applications can be used on your device. Some of the more common and well-known Mobile operating systems include the following:

Symbian OS

Symbian OS has become a standard operating system for smartphones, and is licensed by more than 85 percent of the world's handset manufacturers. The Symbian OS is designed for the specific requirements of 2.5G and 3G mobile phones.

Windows Mobile

The Windows Mobile platform is available on a variety of devices from a variety of wireless operators. You will find Windows Mobile software on Dell, HP, Motorola, Palm and i-mate products. Windows Mobile powered devices are available on GSM or CDMA networks.

Palm OS

Since the introduction of the first Palm Pilot in 1996, the Palm OS platform has provided mobile devices with essential business tools, as well as capability to access the Internet or a central corporate database via a wireless connection.

  • Link: Palm OS Web site

Mobile Linux:

The first company to launch phones with Linux as its OS was Motorola in 2003. Linux is seen as a suitable option for higher-end phones with powerful processors and larger amounts of memory.


MXI is a universal mobile operating system that allows existing full-fledged desktop and mobile applications written for Windows, Linux, Java, Palm be enabled immediately on mobile devices without any redevelopment. MXI allows for interoperability between various platforms, networks, software and hardware components.

Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.

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