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Introduction to Mobile Computing

  • Kavya Nambiar
  • Sep 01, 2021
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What would your life be like without your smartphone? This question holds a lot of significance and demands a lot of reflection today, but just two decades ago, this question didn’t exist.


These dramatic lifestyle changes that occurred over the years are due to advancements in a field called mobile computing. Creating portable devices that allowed network communication changed the world in quite a big way.


Today, smartphones are ubiquitous, every other house has an Alexa, and laptops are getting thinner and lighter by the day without compromising on processing power. Personal computers are losing their popularity as the limitations of mobile computing are slowly becoming overcome.


So from the early days of chunky laptops to the paper-thin screens of the present and future, mobile computing is an evolving field of great relevance.


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What is Mobile Computing?


Mobile Computing is a technology that allows us to transmit data, audio, and video via devices that are not connected with any physical link. The key features of mobile computing are that the computing devices are portable and connected over a network.


Mobile computing began with the first laptops developed in 1980, and from there, rapidly grew in capability with the 640*640 portable laptops from Apple in 1990, the development of the first PDA in 1993, the first smartphone from IBM released in 1994, network connectivity enabled smartphones in 2000, the first iPhone released in 2007, and the first android smartphone in 2009.


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Today there is great variety among mobile computing devices, and their capabilities are increasing with each new model released.


The major elements of mobile computing are mobile communication, mobile hardware, and mobile software.


  • Mobile Communication: This refers to the communication infrastructure set in place, including wireless network infrastructure, protocols, data formats, bandwidths, and portals necessary to ensure seamless connectivity and communication.


  • Mobile Hardware: The hardware is the mobile computing devices and supporting devices, with the capabilities required to perform their required operations and connect to networks.


  • Mobile Software: The most important software component is the operating system, which is the brain of any computing system. For a laptop, this may be Windows, Linux or macOS, and for a smartphone, it may be Android or iOS. The different applications running on a device are also part of the mobile software.



Mobile Computing Devices


Usually, a mobile computing device would have a body- made of metal or plastic, a RAM, a CPU, a hard drive, a motherboard, a keyboard and a mouse- which could be separate components in the body or touch-based, a screen, a video card, an operating system, software applications, and finally, a network connection.


This is around the same as the components of a personal computer, which isn't a mobile device. But mobile devices may have other components too, to make them portable, and certain characteristics that make them different-


  • Size: The portability of mobile devices demand a smaller size. Reduction in size without reducing capabilities have also always been a challenge when developing mobile devices.


  • Power Source: Mobile devices are usually powered by rechargeable batteries. Improving the battery life of mobile devices is another significant area of research.


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  • Operating System: Laptops run on more or less the same OS as PCs, but for smartphones and other devices, the OS is significantly different. They are powerful but scaled-down and made specifically for particular devices.


  • Connectivity: Mobile computing devices have capabilities that allow access to the internet. Also, mobile devices like smartphones have access to mobile broadband networks that allow you to make and receive phone calls.


  • Applications: Applications meant for mobile devices are specifically designed for running on a particular OS. These applications are what extends the capabilities of devices beyond just connecting to the internet or making calls.


Other features generally found in mobile computing devices include GPS capability, accelerometer, compass, microphone, camera, and so on.


Mobile computing devices have evolved greatly over time. A lot of the devices that existed in the past have been phased out, like the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). We live now in the age of the smartphone, but there are several other categories of mobile computing devices -


  • Laptop: Laptop computers are portable personal computers. It is meant to offer the same functionality as a PC, so the same OS, applications, and files can run on this.


  • Smartphone: A smartphone is a mobile phone with powerful capabilities. They typically have a touchscreen interface, have internet access, can run various applications, and include features like a camera and GPS.


  • Tablet computer: Tablets have touchscreens and virtual keyboards, and are often thought of as an intermediary between a laptop and a smartphone. They have better processing power, functionality, and screen resolution than smartphones. Some models may also have a stylus meant for navigating the touch screen better.


  • Wearable: A more recent addition, wearable computers like smartwatches offer limited features similar to a smartphone within a watch.


  • E-reader: E-readers are devices that are similar to tablets, but their main purpose is to read digital documents.


Other devices include scanners, carputers, handheld gaming consoles, advanced digital cameras, smart speakers, and so on.



Advantages and Limitations of Mobile Computing


The mobile computing revolution has doubtlessly been advantageous for the whole world. But there are disadvantages, limitations, and possible risks that mobile computing poses, and it is important to study both the pros and the cons to make the best out of technology.


So here are the advantages and limitations of mobile computing-

Advantages of mobile computing include portability, increased productivity, affordability, data access, and cloud computing. The limitationsinclude security concerns,size limitations, power consumption, and so on.

Advantages and Limitations of Mobile Computing


Advantages of mobile computing 


  • Portability


Mobility is the biggest benefit that mobile computing devices offer. With the advent of mobile computing, it became possible for people to carry around computing devices with great capabilities. There is no need to go to a physical location to access the internet or work with a particular software.


  • Affordability


With each passing year, mobile computing devices are becoming cheaper and offer more capabilities. Even those who are economically struggling can easily invest in a smartphone. With affordability comes accessibility, and eventually, this would also result in closing the digital divide.


  • Data Access


The internet opened up a trove of an incomprehensible amount of data, and mobile computing devices made that data accessible to everyone. Gone are the days when you had to pore over huge books in a library to compile a research paper, or look through phone books, or ask for directions at every street corner.


  • Increased Productivity


The above benefits facilitate a great increase in productivity. People can work from their homes at any and all times. They have access to large amounts of information and can teach themselves anything and do anything. 


  • Entertainment


A lot of us would’ve reached the breaking point during the lockdown periods if it weren’t for Netflix and Amazon Prime. Access to a wide variety of movies, educational and informative content is now simple. Thanks to the availability of relatively inexpensive high-speed data connections, you can live stream anything anywhere.


  • Cloud Computing


Advancements in cloud computing have greatly increased the capabilities of mobile computing. The limitations in physical capabilities that mobile computing devices face can be overcome by storing information and accessing applications in the cloud.


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Limitations of mobile computing-


  • Security


There are several security concerns associated with the increased popularity of mobile computing devices. Keeping a device constantly connected to the internet makes it vulnerable to threats. Cybersecurity concerns like data breaches and unethical practices such as hacking, pirating, and so on, are becoming increasingly difficult to keep in check.


  • Issues with Connectivity


Mobile devices need either WiFi connectivity or mobile network connectivity to access most of their capabilities. Most applications don’t function without internet connectivity, and the lack of it makes devices very limited.


  • Device Size Limitations


The portability of mobile computing devices demands smaller sizes. And the limitations in size puts limitations on features like processing power, storage, and screen resolution.


  • Power Consumption


Rechargeable batteries are always limited by the time it needs before it needs to be plugged in. A possible lack of availability of power sources and charging stations can render mobile computing devices useless.


  • Dependency


Because mobile computing devices are lacking in some ways, as mentioned above, increased dependency on them can prove dangerous. Nowadays we always expect to have our smartphone with us to help us solve any problem, and we would be lost if it runs out of juice. 


We don’t know our way around without Google Maps, can’t do basic math without a calculator, rely on digital payments and don’t carry around cash, and don’t know how to store memories without pictures. No matter how much technology advances, there will be a certain amount of unreliability associated with mobile computing, and it would be good for us to keep that in mind.


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Future of Mobile Computing


With high-speed connections probably becoming ubiquitous in the future, the accessibility and popularity of mobile computing will only increase further. With new innovations like Li-Fi technology, you can get internet access through the light of all things. 


Newer mobile computing devices are figuring out how to pack high processing power into the smallest of packages. Samsung launched a new line of foldable smartphones recently, which are lightyears ahead of the flip phones of the early 21st century.


Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things are also propelling mobile computing forward in new and innovative directions.

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