What Makes Your Smartphone Smart: A Guide to Understanding the Inner Workings of Your Cellphone

1The handy little device you carry around in your pocket is pretty amazing. Just a few short decades ago, simply making a phone call was a major technological advancement. The mobile devices of yesteryear were expensive, bulky, and lacked the ability to do anything beyond making phone calls. Let’s face it; they were nothing like the mobile devices we carry around with us today.

Dubbed “smartphones,” our devices now allow us to do so much more than talk on the phone. We can text, browse the Web, take pictures, and even monitor our health. We can access our entire library of music, electronic books, and more at a moment’s notice—and it all fits in the palm of our hand. It’s not hard to understand why these devices have earned the “smart” moniker, but what exactly makes them so smart?

Across the mobile electronics industry, there are several cell phones that fall into the smartphone category. From the Apple iPhone to Samsung’s Galaxy line and a host of other devices, there are several products that fit the “smartphone” definition. Let’s take a look at some of the features that work together to create truly amazing, smart devices.

Operating System

One thing that sets smartphones apart from other cellular devices is the presence of an operating system. This is what allows the device to run applications or apps. iPhones run the iOS, while BlackBerry devices run on the BlackBerry OS. Microsoft powers the Windows Phone, and there are numerous devices that run Google’s Android Operating System.


The apps that run on modern smartphones are capable of some pretty amazing things. Whether you want to kill some time playing a game, you need to edit a Microsoft Office document, you have a photo that you want to edit, or you want to accomplish just about anything else, you can do it with an app. Apps exist for just about everything imaginable, and they’re one of the best ways to make your smartphone even smarter and enable it to meet your unique needs.

Think of apps like the programs for your computer. Each is designed to perform a specific task. The exact apps that are available to you vary depending on what operating system you are using and your specific device. Apps that make use of certain features—like biometric scanners, for example—only work on devices that have these features.

Internet Access

A smartphone wouldn’t be nearly as smart without access to the internet. Most modern smartphones access the Web at high speeds, thanks to 4G and 3G data networks. Wi-Fi support also enables fast connections when smartphone users are at home or within range of wireless networks.

Without access to the internet, many of the most intelligent features of the smartphone are not enabled. Your mobile device allows you to access any type of information available—but only if you are able to connect to the internet. Likewise, you can only download apps when you have an internet connection. While some functions and applications do work offline, many are unavailable unless you are connected to a cellular data network or wireless network.

3Powerful Processors

It takes a lot of processing power to run all those apps and keep you connected to the internet at all times. That’s where the processor comes in. The processor is the brain of any smartphone. It performs all the basic calculations and executes code to keep everything running like it should. While much smaller than your desktop, your smartphone is a computer, and the way it operates is very similar.

Inside your smartphone, there is a single chipset known as the System-on-a-Chip (SoC). The SoC is extremely small, so it can fit inside the limited space in your mobile device, and it combines several elements to run today’s smartphones. The CPU, or central processing unit, is what handles most of what you experience when using your smartphone. From running the operating system to enabling touchscreen functions, it is solely responsible for most of what your device does.

The GPU is another key component of the SoC. It processes visual and graphical data and handles things like playing games and rendering Web pages. While the CPU could perform these functions, having a dedicated GPU is more efficient because it allows for decreased power consumption while improving imaging processing and geometric realism.

The SoC also incorporates several other sub-processors, including video decoders and encoders, audio playback, camera operation, etc. All of these sub-processors work together to enable your smartphone to perform a huge range of tasks.

Even the hot melt adhesives that are used to connect the various components are much smarter than the classic super glue, also known as cyanoacrylate glue. They must be capable of bonding different materials in very small areas, and they have to do so without interfering with the device’s performance. Pretty impressive, right?

Long-Lasting Batteries

One of the greatest things about a mobile device is that it’s … well … mobile. You can take it everywhere and pull it out whenever you need it. It won’t do you much good, though, if you pull it out and discover that the battery is dead. Running a smartphone requires a lot of energy, and not just any battery is up for the job.

Smartphone manufacturers power their devices using advanced lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are lightweight, compact, and rechargeable, making them ideal for portable devices. They also last a long time on a single charge, even when they’re doing a difficult job like powering the tiny computer that fits in your pocket.

In Conclusion

From massive phones that had to be carried around in bags just to make a simple phone call to palm-sized computers that fit easily in a pocket, mobile devices have come a long way. Today’s smartphones are capable of things that were once beyond the reach of even the most advanced supercomputers. These small devices are packed with components that all work together to make them “smart,” and, as technology continues to improve, we can only expect to see them become even more intelligent and in tune with our needs.


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