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What is a Global Smartphone?

Herb Marlow
Herb Marlow

A global smartphone is a personal communication device with worldwide capabilities. The smart phone itself is a handheld communicator with models offered by several different telecommunications companies. The global smartphone contains abilities far beyond the original telephone concept of making and receiving voice transmissions.

The word “global” in the phrase “global smartphone” means that the instrument can be used nearly any place in the world. In their advertising, telecommunications companies often site the number of countries in which their global smartphones can send and receive data. The number of countries range from 150 to 200.

World flags.
World flags.

IBM® first developed smartphones in 1992. That first smartphone, while far more complex than a regular cell phone, still had few advanced qualities compared to today’s global smartphones. RIM® released the BlackBerry® smartphone in 2001, and it could be said that RIM® launched modern global smartphone technology. Among other attributes, the BlackBerry® was the first smartphone designed for wireless email use.

A global smartphone can receive text messages from anywhere in the world.
A global smartphone can receive text messages from anywhere in the world.

While there is no clear benchmark definition for all global smartphones, they do share certain basic attributes. These attributes include: worldwide operation, sending and receiving telephone calls and text messages, a miniature QWERTY keyboard, full email capabilities, a personal organizer, a camera, navigation hardware and software, software for viewing video clips or playing music, viewing photos, internet browsers, and contact list storage as large as available memory permits.

Communication devices known as global smartphones all use an open operating system. The open operating system (OS) gives the device the ability to add applications to the global smartphone to access games, enhanced data processing, word processing, etc. The open operating system, in contrast to the closed operating system used for land line and regular cell phones, turns the smartphone into a miniature personal computer able to use add-on applications from the manufacturer of the device, a network operator, or any other third-party software system developer.

There are several open operating systems used by global smartphone developers on the market today. Symbian OS, Symbian Limited's Nokia®, probably has the largest share of the world market, followed by iPhone™ OS from Apple Inc., and RIM's® Blackberry®. Other well known manufacturers such as Windows Mobile®, Linux®, Android™ from Google®, and Palm® OS, developed by PalmSource, all offer global smartphone operating systems to consumers.

A global smartphone makes it possible to stay in nearly constant communication with business colleagues, an office PC or family members from almost anywhere in the world.

Discussion Comments


@pelestears- You should check with your cell phone carrier to see if you need to unlock your phone before your trip. Most smartphone on the market are tied to a service provider so it may be necessary to have the phone unlocked so it will work with other sim cards.

If you are on a CDMA network (Verizon, Sprint), your phone will likely have a sim slot as well, but you will still need to have the phone company unlock the phone so it works on other carrier networks. From my experience all you need to do is call the phone company to get an unlock code for your phone. Depending on the carrier, they may make you bring it in to the retail outlet to have this done.


@Pelestears- Just about any quad band phone will act as a world phone. The issue with phone service in foreign countries is not the hardware; rather, it is the service charges. International roaming charges can be very expensive, so you should probably consider buying international service from your provider or a second sim card for international calls.

Some of the best smartphones even have dual sim card slots so you can insert a second sim card without removing the first. This makes international travel very convenient because switching between service providers is as simple as finding the function in your menu.


How do I tell if my smartphone is a global phone? Is there some sort of frequency that global phones are supposed to be compatible with? I have an HTC HD2 with a year left on its contract. I am moving to Morocco for a year to study Arabic and I would like to take my phone with me.

I have received an offer from a competing phone company that will pay my cancellation fee if I switch, but I only want to do that if I cannot use my phone in Morocco. The offers would be worthwhile if I have to buy a new phone because it will save me about four hundred dollars on signing a new contract.

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    • World flags.
      World flags.
    • A global smartphone can receive text messages from anywhere in the world.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      A global smartphone can receive text messages from anywhere in the world.