The Many Types of Mobile Devices on Your Network

By Doug Lowe

Your network is no longer just computers, printers, and maybe PDAs. Now, you have to consider a whole bunch of different device types when planning your network’s security.

Once upon a time, there were mobile phones and PDAs. A mobile phone was just that: a handheld telephone you could take with you. The good ones had nice features such as a call log, an address book, and perhaps a crude game but not much else. PDAs — Personal Digital Assistants — were little handheld computers designed to replace the old-fashioned Day-Timer books people used to carry around with them to keep track of their appointment calendars and address books.

All that changed when cellular providers began adding data capabilities to their networks. Now, cellphones can have complete mobile Internet access. This fact has resulted in the addition of sophisticated PDA features to mobile phones and phone features to PDAs so that the distinctions are blurred.

The term mobile device is used to describe a wide assortment of devices that you can hold in one hand and that are connected through a wireless network. The term handheld is a similar generic name for such devices. The following list describes some of the most common specifics of mobile devices:

  • Mobile phone: A mobile phone (or cellphone) is a mobile device whose primary purpose is to enable phone service. Most mobile phones include features such as text messaging, address books, appointment calendars, and games, and they may provide Internet access.
  • Smartphone: A smartphone is a mobile phone with advanced features that aren’t typically found on mobile phones. There’s no clearly drawn line between mobile phones and smartphones. One distinction is whether the phone can provide integrated access to corporate email. The screen on a smartphone is typically bigger than the screen on a traditional cellphone, and the most popular models (such as the iPhone and most Android devices) do not have a keyboard at all.
  • Android: Android is an open-source operating system for smartphones developed by Google. Android is far and away the most popular platform for smartphones, being used on more than 80 percent of the smartphones sold in 2015.
  • iOS: iOS is the operating system used on Apple’s popular iPhone and iPad mobile devices. Although outnumbered by Android devices, many people consider iOS devices to be more innovative than Android devices. The main thing that holds iOS back in market share is its cost: Apple devices are considerably more expensive than their Android equivalents.
  • BlackBerry: Once upon a time, BlackBerry was the king of the smartphone game. BlackBerry had a virtual monopoly on mobile devices that synchronized well with Microsoft Exchange. Now that Android and Apple devices do that just as well as (if not better) than BlackBerry, BlackBerry has fallen out of vogue. However, BlackBerry is still around, and there are still plenty of BlackBerry users out there. (Note that newer BlackBerry phones run Android rather than the old proprietary BlackBerry operating system.)