What is a “Mobile Device”?

Mobile has traditionally referred to mobile cell phones. Today that is no longer the case and the definition of “mobile device” includes the following portable devices: smartphones, tablets, handheld media players and phablets.

Smartphones are handheld devices that offer a touch-screen and optional keyboard along with data access and cellphone capabilities. The major smartphone platforms are currently Apple, Google, RIM and Microsoft, with market penetration and adoption varying by country and demographic. Smartphone processing capabilities vary widely. Smartphones have diverse methods to interact, including touch, pens, buttons, keyboards, and motion. Smartphone form factors vary widely for Google, RIM and Microsoft devices.

Tablets are handheld devices with a large touch-screen interface. Currently tablets are generally understood to refer to the Apple iPad. Other tablet platforms are available from Amazon, RIM and other Android device manufacturers but have significantly less market share in comparison to the iPad. Tablets have diverse form factors, ranging from 5 inch to 10 inch+ screens. Tablets also have diverse methods to interact, including touch, pens, buttons, keyboards, and motion. Tablets typically have more processing capability then Smartphones or Handheld Media Players. Tablets all have WiFi data connectivity; some may also have 3G or LTE data connectivity.

Handheld Media Players are characterized (and dominated by) the Apple iPod Touch devices. Their primary purpose is to play multimedia content such as music and video. However, these devices have evolved and currently they provide virtually all of the features of an Apple iPhone but at a fraction of the price of an iPhone. Handheld Media Players have a touch-based interface. Handheld Media Players all have WiFi data connectivity.

Phablets are increasingly popular – a phablet is a merging of a tablet and a smartphone device. The primary difference being a much larger form factor screen and pen-optimized input user interface capabilities. This form factor includes the best of the smartphone and tablet but at the expense of portability (i.e. these devices do not readily fit into a shirt or jacket pocket).

Characteristic technology attributes of mobile devices include:

  • Location aware (e.g. GPS, Cell Tower Location Services, WiFi Services)
  • Push notifications
  • Local storage
  • Compass
  • SMS
  • MMS
  • Camera(s) – Front and Back
  • Video(s) – Front and Back
  • Audio recording/Microphone
  • Voice recognition
  • Accelerometer
  • Multi-touch sensors
  • WiFi
  • Audio speaker
  • Audio/Voice headset connector
  • Video interface connector
  • Bluetooth
  • Proximity (device closeness to physical objects), e.g. NFC
  • Ambient light: light/dark environment awareness
  • Cloud services (e.g. Siri, Google)
  • Support for installable applications