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Smartphone ([ ˈsmaːɐ̯tfoʊ̯n ]; [ ˈsmɑɹtfoʊ̯n ] AE , [ ˈsmɑːtˌfəʊ̯n ] BE ) (English, for example “smart phone”) is called a mobile phone (colloquially mobile phone ) with extensive computer functionalities and connectivity . The term serves to distinguish it from conventional ("pure") cell phones. Early smartphone forerunners combined the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA) or organizer around the end of the 1990s, with which one z. B. could manage contacts and his calendar with the functionality of a pure cell phone. The functions of a portable media player , a digital and video camera and a GPS navigation device were later added to the compact device . Central features are touch screens for operation and computer-like operating systems . An Internet access is either via mobile broadband wireless service provider or WLAN possible.

The first smartphones were around in the late 1990s, but it wasn't until the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 that they gained significant market share. The term smartphone comes from the company Ericsson, which named its model R380 with touchscreen, internet browser and calendar at the turn of the millennium. Most of the cell phones sold today are smartphones. Due to the constant Internet access, this triggered a change in Internet usage behavior , especially in social networks such as Facebook , and enabled new forms of communication via services such as WhatsApp and Instagram . As the most widespread smartphone operating system, Android , which is now used by almost all manufacturers, prevailed in the 2010s (market share according to IDC in 2019 86.6%), followed at some distance by Apple iOS, which is only used on Apple devices ( Market share in 2019 13.4%).


Smartphones can be distinguished from classic cell phones, PDAs and electronic organizers by the following features :

  • In terms of design and operation, smartphones are not only optimized for making calls, but should also enable a wide range of applications to be operated in a small space. Typical features are therefore relatively large and high-resolution screens, alphanumeric keyboards and / or touchscreens compared to older mobile telephones .
  • Smartphones usually have an operating system with an open API (see section Operating Systems ). It allows the user to install third party programs. In contrast, mobile phones usually have a predefined program interface that is only limited, e.g. B. by Java applications can be expanded.
  • Smartphones often have different sensors that are less common in classic cell phones. These include in particular motion, photo (RGB and black-and-white), position, magnetic field, light and proximity sensors as well as GPS receivers.

With these features, smartphones offer the basics for mobile office and data communication in a single device. The user can enter data (such as addresses, texts and appointments) using the keyboard or a pen and install additional software himself. Most devices have one or more digital cameras for capturing still and moving images and for video telephony .

The PDAs z. Connection types used, for example, for synchronization, such as WLAN , Bluetooth , infrared or the USB cable connection, are supplemented by connection protocols that have hitherto been common in mobile telephony, such as GSM , UMTS (and HSDPA ), GPRS and HSCSD .

For example, in addition to mobile telephony, it is also possible to use SMS , MMS , e-mails and, with modern devices, video conferences via UMTS or internet telephony (VoIP) with WLAN via internet access points . Theoretically - and to some extent also in practical use - it can be used to receive audio and video streaming from the Internet (e.g. via WLAN) as well as television programs via DVB-H and, with the appropriate hardware, also DVB-T .

Another example is built-in or optional Java support (based on CLDC or MIDP ) - cell phones are one of the most popular applications of embedded Java .

Smartphones are also increasingly used for remote control of digital devices such as cameras , action camcorders , AV receivers , televisions or quadcopters .


The Simon Personal Communicator IBM from 1994

The first smartphone is considered to be the Simon developed by BellSouth and IBM and sold from mid-1994 to early 1995 in part of the USA as a "Personal Communicator" . The pioneer of smartphone systems was the PEN / GEOS 3.0 from the manufacturer GeoWorks , which was used in the Nokia Communicator series introduced in 1996 . When Nokia switched to a different processor for the 92x0, 9300, 9300i and 9500 series of communicators, the company formed an alliance with Psion and its EPOC system to develop the Symbian platform . Symbian was the most widely used smartphone operating system for a long time and had a market share of around 73% in 2006. The main competitors were Windows Mobile , Blackberry OS and Palm OS .

The introduction of the iPhone with its multi-touch user interface in 2007 marked a turning point in the smartphone market. New operating systems such as Android , Palm webOS and Windows Phone 7 could mainly or exclusively be operated via touch screens. As a result, Symbian quickly lost its importance and was roughly on par with the iPhone in autumn 2011. Between 2008 and 2011, all the major manufacturers of Symbian devices announced that they would be using other systems in the future. The most frequently installed mobile operating system on smartphones has been Android from Google since autumn 2011, with a market share of over 60%, which is due to the significantly lower average sales price of mobile phones with Android. IOS from Apple should also be mentioned with a significant market share . The Finnish manufacturer Nokia , which was the leading manufacturer of mobile phones for many years (1998 to 2011), has offered smartphones almost exclusively with the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system since 2012 , but sold its mobile phone division to Microsoft in 2014.

Since 2009, in view of the increasing importance of smartphones, there have been numerous legal disputes over patents and design rights in which all major smartphone manufacturers are involved. The Galaxy S4 , launched in 2013, is the world's first TCO -certified smartphone. At the end of 2013, the Fairphone was the first smartphone to hit the market in which Fairtrade and environmental aspects should play a greater role.

The worldwide sales of smartphones has been declining since the fourth quarter of 2017th In the full year (2017) a total of 1.472 billion smartphones were shipped worldwide, which corresponds to a decrease of less than 1% compared to the 1.473 billion units in 2016. Samsung , Huawei and Apple currently have the highest market shares in the smartphone market (as of 2018) .


Photography with a simple photo camera in a Samsung Galaxy S6 (10.68 MB)

Modern smartphones can be used thanks to a wide range of functions, depending on the equipment u. a. use as:


Smartphones are available in different designs that cannot be clearly distinguished from one another. A common feature is a QWERTY keyboard that can either be folded in or pushed in ( e.g. Samsung F700 Qbowl) or is fixed to the front of the device ( e.g. Nokia E61i ). The latter design is also referred to as Q smartphones (Q = Qwertz or Qwerty). Most smartphones have a touchscreen and can be operated like a PDA . While some devices (e.g. Apple iPhone ) are designed entirely for finger operation (this design is also known as a touch phone), many functions on other devices can be operated with a stylus (e.g. Sony Ericsson P1i ). Practically all smartphones have a front and a rear camera, whereby the rear camera is usually directed away from the viewer with a much higher resolution, while the front camera is used for video telephony or to take self-portraits ( selfies ).

Illustrations (examples)


The Galaxy Note (5.3 inches)

The word creations phablet (in German-speaking also Smartlet ) indicate mixed forms of smart ph ones and T ablet Computer? . These are smartphone models with larger than average screens. Phablets are smaller than common tablets; screen sizes of approximately 5 to 7 inches (approximately 13 to 18 cm) are reported for them. Examples of phablets are Apple iPhone 6 Plus , LG G Flex , Nokia Lumia 1520 , Samsung Galaxy Note 3 , Nexus 6, and Sony Xperia Z Ultra .

The term was first used in a technology article (regarding the Dell Streak ) in 2010. It gained popularity with the release of the Galaxy Note (2011) from Samsung, which triggered the phablet boom with its surprise success. “Phablet” has a mocking undertone that aims at the comedy in handling such large devices (“An awkward term for supersize devices that can seem rather ridiculous to use”).

Other designs

The Russian provider Yota presented a variant of a smartphone in which, in addition to the conventional liquid crystal display, a second screen with electronic paper is available on the back of the device, which is easy to read even in bright ambient light, but is not yet touch-sensitive .

operating system

Since smartphones are more complex than simple mobile phones, a smartphone should be viewed more as a system: it basically consists of several different, networked devices. In particular, the cellular module or modem is also just one of many devices. It therefore partly has its own firmware and operates to a certain extent independently of the rest of the system, such as the Apple iPhone or Android devices.

Functionality and system architecture

Smartphone operating systems are basically built up in several layers (system architecture). This architecture is usually constituted by a core, a layer for basic functions and libraries as well as further layers on which applications are executed or communicate with the user and the layers below. The detailed design of the system architecture, on the other hand, is specific to the operating system and forms one of the differentiation criteria among the various smartphone OS.

The Android OS is divided into a Linux kernel , the Android runtime , the libraries, an applications framework and the applications. The Linux kernel 2.6, on which the operating system is based, has been changed significantly by the operators and adapted to the requirements for use on mobile devices. Various drivers and libraries have been greatly changed or replaced entirely. This mainly affects the memory management created in the kernel. New in the Android version of the Linux kernel is: a. a driver called Binder. This makes it possible for different processes to communicate with one another by making common use of objects created in the shared memory. The allocation of access authorizations is regulated by an Android-specific driver called Ashmen. The main aim is to operate in the most resource-efficient way possible.

The level above the kernel contains Android runtime and the libraries. In the area of ​​libraries, the standard Linux libraries are largely used. The Bionic C library is also implemented in order to be able to achieve maximum resource conservation at this level as well . In addition to some core components, the Android runtime includes the Dalvik Virtual Machine - a Google development. Each application runs on its own DVM as a separate process. This can communicate with other processes (or parts of them) via the IPC driver. The DVM works with its own bytecode (dex bytecode).

The Applications Framework forms the framework by means of which the various applications can access various hardware components ( API ). Like most other smartphone operating systems, Android uses sandboxing . that is, applications are only executed in a strictly defined area. The top application level contains the actual applications (apps) as well as the core components (contacts, browser, SMS, etc.).

The iOS is also constituted by different layers. In particular, these are the Core OS, Core Services, Media, and Cocoa Touch.

However, there are fundamental differences between operating systems that are built on a monolithic kernel (Android, Windows Phone , iOS, etc.) and those that use micro-kernels . However, this technology is currently only implemented by the Blackberry OS and Symbian OS (in the area of ​​operating systems with a significant market share) .

Differences between different smartphone operating systems

In addition to the system architecture, the various operating systems can be distinguished from one another by numerous other criteria.

Manufacturer loyalty

The clearest distinguishing feature here is manufacturer loyalty. While the use of Android, Windows Phone, Symbian and Firefox is not tied to individual device manufacturers, the iOS operating system can only be found on Apple devices and Blackberry OS only on Blackberry devices .

Number and availability of applications

The various operating systems also differ significantly in the number and availability of apps . While more than 1,000,000 different apps are available for Android and iOS, the other operating systems are in the lower six-digit range in terms of the number of available applications. An additional distinction can also be made in this context in the area of ​​the availability or purchase options of the various apps. While Android apps (after explicit approval by the user) can not only be obtained from the Google Play Store, but also from third-party providers (similar to Firefox OS and Blackberry), the installation of e.g. B. iOS applications are only possible via the Apple App Store (similar to Windows).


In terms of security, Android is considered to be the most fragile operating system (Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7 and Blackberry 6.x were included in the underlying investigation). This is mainly due to the less consistent security policy with regard to guidelines and entry barriers for app developers. Android developments do not have to be finally checked, certified and signed, which ultimately makes it possible to put apps that have serious security gaps or that themselves generate malware in Google Play. The security guidelines for iOS and especially for Blackberry are much more restrictive. With these, but also with Windows Phone, each application created must be additionally tested and certified. Blackberry in particular insists on compliance with over 400 different guidelines. A jailbreak can represent a security risk with iOS . A jailbreak unlocks root user rights, which make it possible to run any kind of software, including malware.

Market shares

An overview of the global market shares of the manufacturers of smartphone operating systems is shown on the right.

Overview and market shares:

Market shares according to IDC for 2013
Manufacturer percent
Apple iOS
Windows Phone
operating system developer Remarks
Aliyun OS China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China Alibaba Group based on Linux and present on the Chinese market from 2011
Android United StatesUnited States Open Handset Alliance
(led by Google )
on Linux -based open source project; see also known Android derivatives
bada Korea SouthSouth Korea Samsung Merger with Tizen from 2013
Baidu Yi China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China Baidu Developed in 2011 and a spin-off from Android
Blackberry OS CanadaCanada Blackberry until 2013 Research In Motion (RIM)
Blackberry 10 CanadaCanada Blackberry Successor to Blackberry OS
Brew United StatesUnited States Qualcomm
CyanogenMod United StatesUnited States Cyanogen Inc. A modification of the free Android operating system developed by Google and the predecessor of the LineageOS operating system, maintained between 2009 and 2016 .
Firefox OS United StatesUnited States Mozilla Corporation Linux based open source project, formerly Boot2 Gecko
iOS United StatesUnited States Apple 2007 to June 2010 iPhone OS
LiMo platform United KingdomUnited Kingdom LiMo Foundation from 2013 together with MeeGo to Tizen merged
LineageOS United StatesUnited States LineageOS open source community from 2016 a modification of the free operating system Android developed by Google and the successor to the discontinued custom ROM CyanogenMod .
MeeGo United StatesUnited States Linux Foundation Free software based on Linux and developed in 2010 from the Maemo (Nokia) and Moblin (Intel) projects ; merged into Tizen from 2013
microG GermanyGermany microG community from 2017 a spin-off of the LineageOS operating system , in which the free replica microG is integrated as an alternative to the proprietary Google libraries .
Microsoft Windows Phone United StatesUnited States Microsoft The latest version is Windows 10 Mobile .
Microsoft Windows Mobile United StatesUnited States Microsoft Operating system developed until 2010, based on Windows CE
MobiLinux United StatesUnited States MontaVista 2005 Linux based system; Acquisition of MontaVista in 2009 by Cavium
Open moko TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Open moko based on Openmoko Linux, which was developed from 2007 to 2009
OPhone OPhone Software Developers Network China Mobile Borqs Beijing
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China
Operating system based on Linux and Android, also known as OMS (Open Mobile System)
Sailfish OS FinlandFinland Jolla Open source initiative, further development of MeeGo with newly developed user interface
Symbian United KingdomUnited Kingdom Symbian Foundation Nokia
Formerly the global market leader among operating systems; became less important in 2011 and was completely discontinued at the end of 2012
Tizen United StatesUnited States Linux Foundation free software ; Successor to MeeGo and merger with the LiMo platform and with bada (Samsung)
web OS Korea SouthSouth Korea LG Electronics Hewlett-Packard
United StatesUnited States
former name Palm OS; 2013 takeover by LG Electronics; also Open web OS
Ubuntu Touch Isle of ManIsle of Man Ubuntu Foundation Canonical
United KingdomUnited Kingdom


based on the Linux distribution Ubuntu

Application software


The processor accepts as in any computer system, the resulting calculations. Depending on the manufacturer and model, there are big differences in performance. While older and, above all, cheaper devices only have a relatively low processor performance, top models in 2017 can have several processor cores and a clock rate of over 2 GHz. Most of the processors built into smartphones are based on licensed designs of the ARM architecture . The use of the x86 command set, for example in Motorola's RAZR i , is the exception for smartphones in contrast to notebooks, where x86 dominates.

Processors from Texas Instruments have found widespread use in Nokia's N series . Various devices, including the N70, N80 and N90, are equipped with the TI OMAP 1710 , which works with a clock rate of 220 MHz. The Nokia N93 and N95 models have the TI OMAP 2420 , which is clocked at 330 MHz. This makes these devices faster to use and, thanks to their improved graphics unit, they are already suitable for video games.

In the HTC models Touch Diamond , Touch Pro and Touch HD come Qualcomm processors with a clock frequency of 528 MHz is used. However, since HTC uses Windows Mobile as the operating system in these devices , which requires more memory and computing power, the higher processor performance does not offer any noticeable advantage in terms of operating speed.

The processor speed of the Apple iPhone 3GS from 2009 is even higher at 620 MHz . Here, even computationally intensive functions such as multi-touch run largely smoothly and without delay.

In 2010, the fastest processors built into a smartphone to date with a clock frequency of 1 GHz were found in the Toshiba TG01, the Google Nexus One , which appeared in early 2010, as well as the HTC HD2 and the HTC Desire with a Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm . The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 and the HP Palm Pre 2 are also operated with a 1 GHz processor. The Samsung Galaxy S also has a 1 GHz processor called Hummingbird .

In March 2011, LG Electronics released the P990 Optimus Speed ​​/ 2X , the first smartphone with a dual-core processor. Other manufacturers followed suit later, such as Samsung with the Galaxy S II model , HTC with the Sensation model released in May 2011 , in which a Qualcomm MSM8260 processor with a clock rate of 1.2 gigahertz, and Motorola with the Device Droid Razr. The Apple iPhone 4s , which appeared in October 2011, also has an Apple A5 dual-core processor .

In 2012, the first smartphones with quad-core processors appeared, which means that their processors have four cores. The first was the HTC One X . Furthermore, the Samsung Galaxy S III with Samsung's own Exynos 4 Quad processor and the LG Optimus 4X HD, which, like the HTC One X, use a Tegra 3 processor from chip manufacturer Nvidia , were released in May . The dual-core processors Apple A6 (X), which are built into the iPad 4 or iPhone 5 , have a similar performance as the Exynos 4 Quad.

At the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013, the second generation of quad-core processors was released, which, in contrast to the first generation (e.g. Tegra 3), which relied on Cortex-A9 cores, now often either on the more powerful Cortex A15 architecture based (Tegra 4) or a proprietary design compatible with an ARM instruction set, which in terms of performance can be placed between the Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 architecture, but is very energy-efficient. (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, 600, 800). The dual-core processor of the iPhone 5s , the Apple A7 , which appeared in September 2013, is the first 64-bit processor on the market.

Modern smartphones are partly equipped with eight-core processors (octa-core) , such as the HTC One M9 ( Snapdragon 810) or the Samsung Galaxy S6 ( Exynos 7420). The number of cores has not been a guarantee of high computing power since around that time, because even entry-level smartphones have been using processors with four, eight or even ten cores since then. Overall, however, these do not offer any performance comparable to more expensive devices, as these processors are smaller in size and use larger transistors, so that, for example, the dual-core Apple A9 of the Apple iPhone 6s released far more power than the eight-core Snapdragon 430 released two years later Nokia 6 offers.

power consumption

The operating time depends on the capacity of the battery and the power consumption over time. When switched off, only the built-in clock requires energy. In standby mode with the display switched off, a smartphone can be used for several days, for example to take a call or make an emergency call, which is important in the case of emergency situations without the possibility of recharging the device. The energy requirement increases significantly during operation. Receiving or quickly entering and sending an SMS requires very little energy due to the short transmission time. Peak values ​​of the mobile radio transmission power are in the range of one watt. WLAN requires a similar amount of energy, even if no data is being transmitted. Transmitting to more distant stations or in shaded situations must be carried out with higher power. In order to be able to make calls as long as possible, WLAN and Bluetooth should be switched off, as should the backlight. Permanently activated GPS draws performance at the expense of the achievable stand-by time.

A. Carroll and G. Heiser determined the typical power consumption for different units of a smartphone. (The current consumption in mA from a typically single-cell Li battery with 3.7 V nominal voltage (and often 1500 to 2200 mAh) is obtained by dividing by 3 to 3.7.)
Idle mode (ready for operation) mW
GSM 60
CPU 40
Graphics processor 80
LCD (without lighting) 50
Audio 30th
lighting 0-400
Average consumption 300
Data transfer mW
GSM 800
GPRS 600
GPS 150

Dual SIM

Individual models or model variants are increasingly being designed with dual SIM or double SIM functions (sometimes also for 3 or more SIM cards). This enables, for example, a clear separation of private and business calls, corresponding availability times and address directories. In Germany, two tariffs / contracts can be used side by side or, when traveling abroad, predominantly the SIM of a cheaper local provider can be used. The places can also support different SIM formats.

Manufacturer strategies

Replaceability of the battery

Many manufacturers, including Apple , HTC , LG , Motorola , Nokia , Samsung and Sony , are now installing the battery in many new smartphones in such a way that a change is only possible with great effort or without being destroyed. This can lead to a shortened service life of the devices and is problematic when recycling , as the necessary removal of the battery is currently (as of 2012) uneconomical. Therefore, the former President of the Federal Environment Agency, Jochen Flasbarth, advocates a ban on permanently installed batteries.

Update policy

Consumer advocates complain about the manufacturer's lack of update policy. Only the top models get major updates, while most other devices miss out. The problem is particularly pronounced with Android. Since missing updates etc. a. represent a security risk, consumer advocates see this as a case of planned obsolescence . In addition, the poor information policy of the manufacturers about their update policy is criticized. In most cases, the consumer does not find out whether and how many updates are planned for the device. Therefore, at the beginning of 2016, the Dutch consumer advice center sued the manufacturer Samsung for providing insufficient information on the update supply of new Android devices.

Extent of smartphone use in Germany

According to a survey on behalf of the digital association Bitkom, over three quarters (78 percent) of all German citizens aged 14 and over used a smartphone in August 2017. That corresponds to around 53 million people. In the age group of 14 to 29 year olds, 95 percent used a device. In the age group of 30 to 49 year olds, 93 percent were smartphone users, and in the 50 to 64 year olds it was 88 percent. Around one in four (27 percent) of Germans older than 65 years used a smartphone. In February 2019, the number of smartphone users in Germany was estimated at almost 65 million.

In 2016, 24.2 million smartphones were sold in Germany. The turnover was 9.4 billion euros.

Opportunities and risks of smartphone use

In 2013, the "Internet-AG Enigma" at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main dealt with the question of how smartphones and tablets influence social life. In doing so, the authors followed Karl Steinbuch's motto : "Nothing forces people to use the enormous possibilities of science and technology for their own misfortune, all ways are open to use science and technology for their own good." that

  • society transforms itself into an “informed society” (smart devices enable access to unlimited knowledge, anytime and anywhere);
  • Smart devices enable the user not only to be a consumer of content, but also to be the producer (creation of texts, photos, videos);
  • Travel preparations and travel itself would be made easier;
  • listen to music and watch videos anytime, anywhere;
  • time-shifted television is possible;
  • there are no longer any obstacles to taking a large number of photos;
  • no longer have to leave the house to go shopping;
  • health data could be continuously collected and forwarded;
  • Changes in or on one's own house no longer require the presence of people; their presence could nevertheless be faked to potential intruders;
  • social contacts could be maintained remotely in real time and inexpensively.

These advantages are more serious than the disadvantages conceded by the Internet-AG.

In his book The Smartphone Epidemic. Risk to health, education and society representing neurologist and media psychologist Manfred Spitzer , the thesis that smartphones particularly suitable for digital dementia would contribute in those who used the medium excessive. As a result, the average intelligence of people is declining in those countries where digitization is making great strides. According to Spitzer, frequent use of smartphones leads to a lack of exercise, obesity , poor posture , diabetes , hypertension , myopia , insomnia , an increase in the number of accidents and venereal diseases , anxiety (" Fear of missing out " / "Fomo"), bullying , attention disorders , Depression / suicidality , loss of empathy , reduced life satisfaction, alcohol and drug addiction, smartphone and online game addiction, less education, less mutual trust, less ability to form will, less experience of nature, less promotion of sustainability , more anonymity, less solidarity, more social isolation and loneliness, lower health of the population and a threat to democracy.

Physical health

Cell phones in general

See discussions on health hazards from cell phones .


In December 2018, the ÄrzteZeitung subjected seven allegations of health risks allegedly caused by smartphones to a fact check. The statements according to which were rated as correct

  • Smartphones can be addicting ;
  • Smartphones harm the user's back and hands;
  • Users who look at their smartphone for a long time in the evening tend to have a hard time falling asleep.

It is possible, but not proven, that

  • the blue light of the smartphone can damage the retina of the eyes and even lead to blindness (see LED light sources );
  • electromagnetic radiation from smartphones could cause cancer.

Presumably wrong are the claims that

  • Even the WLAN operation of a smartphone can cause harmful radiation;
  • a cell phone in the pocket of men could reduce fertility.
Consequences of overuse of the thumb

The excessive use of smartphones overwhelms the thumb. The repetitive strain injury syndrome, for example, describes persistent pain in the thumb. This is caused by the fact that, anatomically speaking, the thumb is only designed to hold the other fingers against it, but not for fine-motor typing on the smartphone surface.

Changes in the brain, loss of intelligence

The neurologist Hans-Peter Thier doubts that there is such a thing as “digital dementia”: “In medicine, dementia means a loss of originally available cognitive skills - a loss of memory, a limitation of the ability to think, disorientation and ultimately a disintegration of the personality structure. Dementia can have many causes. One example is brain damage as a result of circulatory disorders. The common denominator of the causes are changes in the structure and physiological processes in the brain [sic!], So that they deviate far from normal. Whatever the use of digital media may do in the brain - there is no evidence whatsoever that it leads to tangible pathological changes in the brain. ”According to Thier, no examination method can be used to tell a brain whether it belongs to an intensive digital media user. On the contrary, there are indications that surfing the Internet has a positive effect on Alzheimer's prophylaxis among seniors .

However, researchers at the University of Zurich have found in a study that the constant use of a smartphone changes the brain insofar as frequent smartphone use changes the somatosensory cortex of the brain, especially those areas that are responsible for the thumb and index finger. That would have been measured by electroencephalography .

For the use of social networks on smartphones, structural brain data show that people who spend more time on them may have reduced volumes in the nucleus accumbens .

Devices as a germ carrier

Scientists from the “Medical Life Sciences” faculty at Furtwangen University have adopted the widespread thesis that various types of pathogenic germs and bacteria can accumulate on the screen surface of smartphones and thus endanger the health of the user. Several laboratory tests have shown that on average around 100 different types of bacteria, both harmful and harmless, collect there, but the number of bacteria on a kitchen work surface, for example, is roughly twice as high.

Risk of accident

A study by an American insurance company found that almost half of all motorists between the ages of 18 and 29 use the Internet while driving a car. In 2010, 3,092 people died and 400,000 people were injured in the US because of driver distraction. In Germany, according to Section 23 of the StVO, any use of a smartphone that requires the device to be “picked up or held” is prohibited. Violations are punished with a 100 euro fine and one point in Flensburg.

Accidents by and with pedestrians are also increasing. When reading the screen held at chest height, the head is usually lowered and thus the field of vision is shaded from above straight to the horizontal by the eyebrows and additionally to the place where the next two steps are placed immediately in front of you by the device. The almost constant communication through eye contact or early indication of the intended route of movement, which is practiced in heavy traffic, especially in the crowd of pedestrians, is no longer necessary. The safety-relevant predictability of behavior by other road users is greatly reduced or at least very erratic. In addition, attention is focused on the device, which means that irregular dangers, even within the restricted field of vision, such as a car approaching the sidewalk or an inline skater rolling on the sidewalk in accordance with the law, are only perceived secondarily, more slowly, and later exceed the attention threshold. A particularly high level of occupancy of the senses occurs when, in parallel to viewing the screen, earphones that seal the ears are inserted and loud music is also heard. In youth language , a pedestrian with this behavior is referred to as a smombie ( suitcase word from smartphone and zombie ). In order to reduce dangers such as overlooking a red pedestrian light when using a smartphone with a lowered head, some cities have also installed floor lights at pedestrian lights , which show whether the pedestrian light is red or green by means of red flashing lights on the floor.

Similar dangers occur during exercise, flight or work. On the other hand, music can promote continuous sporting performance and also prevent falling asleep, especially when driving behind monotonous noise barriers that hide scenic attractions. Crashes on foot with daring selfies , especially at the edges of terrain and railings, are reported, as are car accidents caused by filming and photography. However, this also occurs with other cameras without a (large) screen, such as action cameras .

Mental health

The psychological dependence of many smartphone users on their devices poses a great danger.

The renunciation of the smartphone in order to reduce stress and to devote oneself primarily to the real life (RL) is called cell phone fasting or subsumed under the term digital detox .

Fear of missing out ("Fomo")

A common fear among smartphone users is that they fear they are missing out on something important if they are not able to respond to signals from their device within seconds (see Fear of missing out ). The rational core of this fear is that in an accelerating world the understanding of a “too slow” reaction by a digital media user tends to decrease. When using “normal” mail, for example, a written response from the person addressed can be received after two days at the earliest.

Side effects of constant readiness to react are limited attention to other tasks and physically present conversation partners (see phubbing ) as well as frequent interruptions, which reduce the productivity and the quality of the work to be done. In particular, own children suffer from the lack of attention from their parents, who are usually not physically present for very long anyway, and tend (from the parents' point of view) to become "difficult". In September 2018, around 150 children demonstrated in Hamburg against parents who devote time and attention to their smartphones rather than their children.

Smartphone gambling addiction

The possibility of participating in games via smartphone (including online) is highly addictive . The reporter for the ARD Panorama broadcast on December 13, 2018 presented e.g. B. states that during the five minutes in which he was occupied with a harmless smartphone game, he was praised just as often as in his analogue life in a whole month. The systematic stimulation of the reward center in the players' brains also leads to the willingness to invest real money in smartphone games. That is also possible for children. In Germany, in such cases, neither the legal ban on letting minors participate in games of chance nor the ban on allowing minors to get into debt . In this respect, youth protection law in Germany is being undermined. The WHO recognized in June 2018 that gaming disorder (German: online gambling addiction ) is a health disorder comparable to uncontrolled gambling . Gaming Disorder has been added to the ICD-11 catalog. Since June 2018, a person personally affected by Gaming Disorder can be treated at the expense of his health insurance.

Parent-child interaction

In parent-child interaction situations , the use of smartphones by parents can be a distracting factor. The appropriate perception and reaction of the child's signals by the parents is crucial for the development of attachment security . Responsive parent-child interaction is also important for language development and the development of cognitive and self-regulatory skills . Radesky et al. (2015) found that the health-promoting effect of family ties with regular meals together could be reduced by the parents' smartphone use, as there is less verbal and non-verbal interaction between parents and children. Parents are not encouraged to gain new experiences if they are distracted by the smartphone, and the process of social referencing , which serves to interpret and evaluate unknown situations, is disrupted. The problem is receiving increasing attention, for example youth welfare offices, the health department and the municipal integration center of the Aachen city region are calling for people to become aware of the relationship between the time spent on their smartphone and the time spent with their child with the “Speak to me!” Campaign .


This made-up word from phone and snubbing, coined in 2013, describes the habit of many people to occupy themselves with their cell phone or smartphone during a conversation. It is mostly perceived by the interlocutor as disregard or neglect and affects communication. This behavior not only increases in general, but also in partnerships.

In a 2019 study among US married couples, an average of 2–4 such disorders were reported within two weeks; only a quarter hardly experiences it. But it is not so much a question of the disturbances, but of whether one agrees on everyday manners.

Countermeasures by smartphone manufacturers

Smartphone manufacturers have been addressing the problem of smartphone addiction directly since 2018. Google started things off in May 2018 at the Google I / O 2018 conference, when a system expansion called “Digital Wellbeing” was announced, which is now available on all devices with Android 9.0 and is intended to help reduce addictive behavior. Shortly thereafter, Apple introduced corresponding features in iOS 12 under the name "Screentime" or "Screen time". What both system extensions have in common is that the time spent within each individual app can be measured and limited. With the “Digital Wellbeing” extension from Android 9.0, Google also offers the option of switching the smartphone display to gray levels manually or time-controlled, which should significantly reduce the addiction factor. On iOS, this is also possible using the quick function, but must be set up manually. The display can also be switched to grayscale on older versions of Android, but this option is much more complex.

Threats to the rule of law and democracy

Undermining the right to informational self-determination

Personal data are protected according to the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union and Article 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights . In the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany , no article of its own deals with the right to informational self-determination ; but according to the established case law of the Federal Constitutional Court , the existence of such a basic right must nonetheless be assumed. In particular, the unnoticed and unintended disclosure of personal data of a smartphone user is legally questionable. The express consent to the collection of personal data can also cause problems if the consenting party is not clear about the consequences of his decision (e.g. by increasing his health insurance contributions due to previously unrecognized health risks, or by giving notice of his job could be).

Activity tracking

Activity trackers not only enable the control and storage of health data, but also the forwarding of this data to third parties, e.g. B. to doctors. This is a form of self-revelation (in the sense of Friedemann Schulz von Thun's communication theory ) that the sender of the data cannot avoid as long as he is using the equipment and on the air ( Paul Watzlawick : “You can't not communicate. "). The problem is that lay people often do not understand the meaning of what their body “says about them”.

Wiretapping and espionage

With their cameras and microphones, which are controlled remotely by hacking, smartphones serve as instruments for eavesdropping and visual education .

Location determination

Determining the whereabouts of a smartphone user is particularly problematic if he has a legitimate interest in preventing third parties from using their knowledge against him ( alibi complex).

A smartphone's location can be determined via GPS or (less precise, but energy-saving) via the mast network of network operators or via WLAN. By connecting a smartphone to a GPS system, it “knows” where it is (position determination), but it can also be located remotely. The prerequisite for this is that the smartphone is switched on and that the GPS receiver has found "its" satellite in it in orbit, which under unfavorable circumstances can take up to twelve minutes.

The storage of the whereabouts of a smartphone (and the location of its user, provided the device is close to their body) as well as the times of use and communication partners by the responsible network operator can lead to problems for the owner, especially if the device is used as a result of a Manipulation is only apparently turned off. The only way to protect against unwanted investigations (if possible without damaging the device) is to remove the battery.

Ecological problems

"Nothing sustainable about cell phones and tablet PCs ", was the verdict of 2014 Eva Wolfangel, employee at Spektrum der Wissenschaft .

The environment is heavily polluted by smartphones through highly toxic substances such as heavy metals (e.g. mercury , cadmium , chromium and lead ). An average of 21.6 kilograms of electronic waste are generated per person . One of the reasons for this is that in Germany, for example, a smartphone is only used for an average of 18 months before it is replaced by a new one. Electronic waste is usually disposed of in developing countries , where the soil, air and people are then exposed to these toxic substances. Appropriate alternatives are therefore proposed.

See also: Green IT

Artistic reception

Smartphone for interactive installations

The smartphone as an idea in literature appeared long before the actual development of the smartphone. As early as 1949, Ernst Jünger described Heliopolis in his futuristic novel . Looking back at a city the phonophore that anticipated the functions of a smartphone.

The origins of media art are linked to book printing in the 15th century or photography in the 19th century. The term “ media art ”, on the other hand, is only used for art of the new media of the 20th and 21st centuries. This development has gone through video art and digital art since the Internet with hypertext . Since the turn of the millennium, media art has developed very quickly, even if it shows signs of ephemerality. The field of media art also includes digital photography and art using the smartphone.

In the series Removed, the American photographer Eric Pickersgill (* 1986) depicted people in everyday situations from which he was allowed to remove the personal devices , and in which the people still maintain their body position. It shows how much people turn to the device, even when other people are physically close.

For media-aesthetic perspective is examined in the present, such as reading and writing to the antiquity (for example, in dealing with a papyrus ) on the leaves of a book through to modern gesture control of the smartphone develop. With reference, for example, to the philosopher Vilém Flusser , in connection with this development the question is also asked whether swiping over touchscreens changes cultural techniques such as writing and whether new forms of art and literature arise in connection with this .

The art critic Hanno Rauterberg sees the importance of the advent of the smartphone for art in the fulfillment of a wish of the avant-garde of the 20th century: new image cultures and a merging of art and life. The avant-garde of the 20th century tried to shed many classic features of art and to develop art and life on top of one another. In addition to orality and writing, there was a "suitability" added, because the smartphone camera could express a lot for which conventional means could not find words. Photography through the smartphone multiplies the moment, overcome the place and turn the here and now into "everywhere and always". If it was previously the case that art such as Marcel Duchamp's works were confused with everyday things, this fact has been reversed and the everyday takes on artistic features. The enthusiasm for the banal is reminiscent of the art conceptions of Joseph Beuys , Robert Rauschenberg , Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons .

The digital revolution is also a radical change for museums and the art market . Richard Prince , for example, printed pictures from Instagram on canvas and sold them in New York. The importance of museums as an authority is decreasing.

The changes brought about by smartphone technology and photo apps in the field of photography bring professional photographers and laypeople closer to each other in terms of viewing habits, processing and marketing of photographs. Due to the numerous applications for the smartphone ( apps ) that have appeared, the possibilities for editing photos have multiplied since 2007. The modification options are multiplying even today with the appearance of new apps at high speed; the photos can be shared immediately. The editing can also make photos of poor quality appear interesting and everyday things can become art. Smartphone cameras represent the first technology in the field of photography that combines the creation of images, the editing and the sharing of the resulting works. Before the development of the smartphone, only the Polaroid camera combined the elements of taking, printing and instantly sharing pictures, but without the possibility of editing. With digital cameras, however, there was no way to print pictures, so the detour via a personal computer was necessary.


  • Oliver Ruf (Ed.): Smartphone Aesthetics . On the philosophy and design of mobile media (= Oliver Ruf [Hrsg.]: Medien- und Gestaltungsästhetik . Volume 1 ). transcript, Bielefeld 2018, ISBN 978-3-8376-3529-4 ( limited preview in Google book search).

Web links

Commons : Smartphones  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Smartphone  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

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