It's hard to walk down the street without spotting a single mobile phone glued to someone's hand. They have become a staple feature in everyday life for young children through to those enjoying their retirement years. Most people buy one as soon as their old mobile phone becomes damaged or lost. Some users even buy new models when their previous phone is still perfectly capable because they want the latest features and updates.
Mobile phones have dramatically increased in popularity over the last 25 years. 47% of households owned a mobile phone between 2000 and 2001, which jumped to 64% in the following year. From 2015 onwards, ownership increased to 95% of households.
It's estimated that the UK will have 64.89 million active smartphone users by 2025 out of an estimated population of 68.3 million people. This is over 95% of the country's population, which is higher than the ownership of cars in the UK, as only 81% of households have access to a car.
Due to their popularity, it's likely that you have heard the term 'smartphone' bandied around frequently over the past decade, but you may not be sure what it actually means.
Continue reading to find out what features most smartphones offer, the price range offered by various phone manufacturers and the estimated lifespan of these devices.
Smartphones are a type of handheld device that uses mobile operating systems (OS) and functions like a miniature desktop or laptop computer. They come with various features, such as a camera, internet browsing and GPS. You can also use calculator, clock and flashlight features that come pre-installed.
You can send and receive text messages and phone calls on a smartphone through pay-as-you-go or monthly contracts. Mobile phone networks offer different packages for various prices. Some contracts offer unlimited texts, calls and data, while others set a limit. Your ability to make calls and texts on your phone may be restricted by your geographical location, however. Some contracts restrict your bundled minutes and texts when you are abroad unless you purchase an international bundle.
There are various apps that you can download onto your device that allow you to message, phone or video call other people for free. WhatsApp, a popular example, allows smartphone users to communicate with each other if they have access to their mobile phone numbers.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have smartphone apps that you can download onto your device from the app store. These applications let you upload your own text, photos and videos, as well as view personal updates from other people.
Smartphones vary in price depending on the brand and features of the device. When Apple release a new iPhone model, users can often pay around £50 per month or over £1,000 if buying the device outright. This price will decrease as newer models are released, and technology evolves.
Android phones are usually considered to be cheaper than Apple devices, although this is because there is such a large spectrum of prices for different Android models. Samsung, Apple's biggest competitor, offers smartphones from around £140 to over £1,600 for its newest model.
Second-hand smartphones are significantly cheaper, as many can be bought for under £100. The release of newer models also pushes down the price of older smartphones as their technology may be slightly outdated.
Mobile phone companies will sometimes ask for an upfront payment for a smartphone in addition to pay-as-you-go or contract payments. However, you may be able to sign up for a contract that includes the smartphone for free.
What affects the price of a smartphone?
There are several factors that can affect how much you pay for a smartphone. Branding can have a big impact on the price of a smartphone, as some companies have a better reputation than others for quality devices.
Apple has built itself a strong brand image and has earned a legion of fans who consistently buy iPhones and other Apple devices. Although many people think of iOS devices as overly expensive, Apple is also known for producing state-of-the-art phones that offer innovative features and designs.
Another major factor in the cost of a smartphone is how new it is. Newly released devices tend to have better features than older models and are, therefore, in higher demand. Older models are often reduced in price to encourage customers to buy them and to reduce stock before older models are discontinued.
Some models, such as the Windows phone line, have been discontinued, so no new features are released. In 2021, Windows abandoned the platform, so Windows phones will no longer receive security updates or new hardware.
Customers usually have special requirements when they are shopping for smartphones. Most people look for high-definition displays and good digital cameras, both of which can raise the price of a smartphone model. Additional features, such as fingerprint and face recognition, can also raise the price of a smartphone as they aren't offered with every model.
The first example of a smartphone was the Simon Personal Communicator, which was designed by IBM in 1992 and sold by BellSouth in the following year. This model featured a display screen and used an operating system so that users could browse the internet, read emails and play music.
Apple released their first iPhone in 2007, which transformed the smartphone industry. The device, which was first sold in the US for $599, had a 3.5" screen. This was far larger than the 2.2" screen that Samsung's competing model, BlackJack, offered or the 2.5" screen that BlackBerry's 8808 had in the same time period.
The first iPhone ran on EDGE 2G wireless, which was incredibly slow. It offered a maximum speed of 384 kbit/s (48 kB/s), which pales in comparison to the updated 5G system, which has maximum speeds of 20 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) and 100+ Megabits-per-second (Mbps).
All Apple devices (including iPhones and iPods) run on iOS, which is the world's second-most used mobile operating system. Android, the world's most used mobile operating system, is used by companies such as Samsung and Google.
Android, which was developed and is owned by Google LLC, was first released in 2008, a year after iOS was released. Whereas iOS is specifically designed for Apple devices, Android is designed and can be used by smartphones from different companies.
iOS devices have Safari as the in-built default browser, whereas Android devices use Google Chrome. Both systems have virtual assistant technology - Android offers Google Assistant, while Apple devices are pre-installed with Siri. Apple devices also block third-party apps, whereas Android devices don't have this feature.
An Apple device is available in 34 languages, whereas Android devices are available in over 100. In addition, it's harder to adapt and change iOS devices unless they are jailbroken, whereas Android users can change most settings.
Apple's eco-system allows system-wide integration across devices, so it's easier to share files on iOS devices. It's more difficult to share files on an Android phone, although it can still be done.
Although opinions vary, smartphones are usually considered to have hit their peak usage after around two and a half years. After this time, most users tend to buy a newer model, especially if a newly released smartphone has significantly superior features.
Technology is constantly evolving, which means that many smartphone users decide to upgrade their devices before their phone reaches their limit. However, other people wait until the phone starts to slow down and becomes laggy before they change to a new device. The battery can also start to drain faster, which is a sign that the battery is wearing down and needs replacing.
Smartphone screens can get cracked or smash if the device is dropped. For this reason, it's advisable to buy a case and screen protector for your phone to help protect the screen and potentially extend the device's life.
It's also a good idea to update the operating system regularly, as this can help protect your device against viruses and hackers. Your operating system will also be slower and won't perform as well if your hard drive is filled to its capacity, so it's a good idea to close apps and files that you don't need.
To many people, smartphones are their most prized possession. They contain a wide collection of features that reduces the need for other devices. For example, a smartphone that contains a camera, calculator and phone immediately cut down your need for three other devices.
Smartphones are also a good idea from a safety perspective. You can take a smartphone wherever you go, which means that you can contact other people if you need help. However, it's worth remembering that your device's ability to contact other people is reliant on your data, contract bundle and phone signal.
You can make calls to the emergency services as long as you are in the range of a network signal. Emergency calls can be made via any network, which increases the chance that you will be in range of a network wherever you are.
A mobile phone (cell phone) allows you to call and text other people. A smartphone takes it one step further and allows users to access the features that you would find on laptop or desktop computers. These devices come inbuilt with cameras, GPS, calculators and calendars. You can also make video calls or record audio and send them over a direct message or text.
Android and iOS devices run on different smartphone operating systems, which means that Apple devices offer different features to brands such as Samsung and LG. There are pros and cons for both operating systems, but most smartphone users choose an operating system and stick with it. iOS is only found on Apple devices, whereas you can buy different branded phones to use Android.
The lifespan of smartphones varies, but you can typically expect a smartphone to start declining after two and a half years. You may notice the battery starts to drain more quickly, or some systems are slower. You can try to prolong the lifespan of your phone by deleting inactive apps, running regular updates and buying a protective cover for your phone.