So, what is a smartphone?


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So, what is a smartphone?

A couple out and about taking a selfie

What's coming up

In this activity, we're going to look at the basic features of a smartphone. You'll learn what a smartphone can do, how all the parts work, and how to make a call.

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What a smartphone looks like

Most smartphones look like a tablet computer, only small enough to fit in your pocket.

A smartphone has a large, glass screen which, like a tablet, is a touchscreen. You can tap and swipe your fingers across the screen to control a range of things on a smartphone.

There are two main types of smartphone: Android and Apple iPhone. They look similar and do the same things … just a bit differently.

An example of a typical smartphone
An example of a typical smartphone

Parts of a smartphone

Let's take a tour of a smartphone and learn about the main parts.

The main part of the phone is the touchscreen, which takes up most of the front of the phone.

Buttons and plugs around the edge of a smartphone are used to turn the phone on and off, to control the volume, and to charge the phone's battery.

A smarthphone with the location of buttons and plugs highlighted with arrows
The back of a smartphone with the location of the camera highlighted

Above the screen is a tiny camera used for video chatting. Another camera on the back of the phone can be used for taking photos, just like a digital camera.

Inside the smartphone is a battery, which can last several hours before running out of power. Connecting the smartphone to mains power can recharge the battery.

A smartphone with the battery low symbol highlighted
A smartphone with a web page displayed

What can a smartphone do?

The modern smartphone can do nearly as many things as a full-sized computer. Programs, called applications, or 'apps', can be obtained to help it do more. Some of the things you might do with a smartphone include:

  • Make phone calls or video chat.
  • Listen to music or play games.
  • Browse the internet.
  • Text and email.
  • Navigate with maps.
  • Social networking.
  • Make lists and calendar appointments.

Phone services

To use a smartphone, you need to have a mobile phone service. These usually have a monthly cost and allow you to make calls and use, or 'surf', the internet. Many mobile phone services actually include the cost of the phone in the monthly price.

There is usually a limit on how much calling and surfing you can do per month, depending on your mobile phone plan. Talk to your mobile phone provider to discuss what plan would work best for you.

A smartphone showing a monthly telephone plan and how much it costs
A smartphone with the power button location indicated by an arrow

Turning a smartphone on and off

To turn the smartphone phone on, press the power button. This is usually located on the side of the phone.

The screen turns off if you don't use the smartphone for a while, but it's still using battery power. To turn the phone completely off, press the power button again.

At the Lock screen, you can tap or swipe to unlock the smartphone, ready for use. If the Lock screen uses a security code, however, you will need to enter it to unlock the phone.

A typical lock screen on a smartphone
A close up of someone using their smartphone to surf the internet

Using the touchscreen

The touchscreen on a smartphone works just like the touchscreen on a tablet. You may have learnt all about how to tap, swipe and scroll with your fingers in the previous What is a tablet? course. You can look at it after this activity to refresh your memory on how to use a touchscreen.

How to make a call

Of course, a smartphone can still make phone calls.

To make a call with a smartphone, you tap the phone icon on the screen. You can then make a call by either:

  • Typing a number into the onscreen keypad.
  • Choosing someone from your contacts list.

Let's see how you might make a phone call on a smartphone. Click on the 'Continue' button and press 'play' to watch the short video on making a call.

A smartphone onscreen keypad ready to enter a phone number


Well done, you reached the end of the What is a smartphone? activity.

As you have seen, smartphones are much more than just a device for talking. The modern smartphone is really a complete little computer, capable of doing just about anything a laptop computer can do.

Next up, we're going to look at How to charge a smartphone.

A close up of a login screen on a smartphone